Facing rising rates of gun deaths for North Carolina youth, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper established an Office of Violence Prevention on March 14. The new office will work to coordinate existing programs across the state, apply for grants, provide training and share examples of programs that work, Cooper said.

The state needs a “clearinghouse” to make programs across the state more cohesive and coordinated, he said. The office will be part of the Department of Public Safety and funded through existing state and federal money within the agency. The first step for the office will be hiring an executive director, Cooper said. No information has been released yet about how many staff the office will have.

“There will be not one simple solution to this problem — but a collaborative effort from lawmakers and the community,” Ingram Haizlip told reporters at Cooper’s news conference at the Executive Mansion. “No more telling our community what it needs, but listening to the community’s voices as they express their needs and concerns.”

Haizlip said she was shot in the head in 2011 and had brain surgery, and that she lost her cousin and sister to gun violence. She is program manager for Gate City Coalition community violence prevention program in Greensboro and a member of the board of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.

Cooper started the Task Force for Racial Equity and Criminal Justice in 2020, now housed at the Department of Public Safety. DPS Secretary Eddie Buffaloe, co-chair of the task force, said one of its priorities is violence prevention, “including evidence-based community violence intervention programs, restorative justice, youth crime reduction efforts and school justice partnerships.”

Government entities often operate in silos, and the statewide office will help coordinate violence prevention work, Mecklenburg County Public Health Department Director Raymond Washington said. Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley called violence a public health issue.

“On average, five North Carolinians die per day from a firearm injury,” Kinsley said. “And the firearm death rate for North Carolina’s children has increased dramatically from 2020 to 2021. And perhaps most tragically, firearm related suicides among North Carolina’s children have also increased, with the 2021 suicide rate the highest it has been in two decades,” KInsley said.

The child death rate in the state grew this year largely due to a dramatic increase in suicides and homicides, according to a report from the NC Child Fatality Task Force, The News & Observer previously reported. The report found that homicide was the leading cause of death for children between 15 and 17 years old.

Gun Bills

Cooper, a Democrat, has vetoed bills from the Republican-majority legislature that would loosen gun restrictions. With the General Assembly one vote away from a supermajority after the 2022 election, lawmakers are voting on new versions of bills that Cooper previously vetoed, including a pistol purchase permit repeal. Asked about legislation likely coming to his desk, Cooper said he “would like us to move forward to fight gun violence with legislation, instead of backward.”

Democrats have sponsored “red flag” bills that would allow extreme risk protection orders that temporarily allow guns to be removed from people deemed dangerous, but Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have not signaled willingness to move those forward.

“You can support the Second Amendment and people’s rights to bear arms, and still take steps to reduce gun violence,” Cooper said. “They go hand in hand. And I’ll tell you, the vast majority of responsible gun owners in this state want to do that. There are only a very few powerful people who are trying to hold off these laws that we think will help. But there are things we can do without that legislation, and we’re taking one of those steps today,” he said.

This article appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *