North Carolina students are calling on elected officials in the state to wipe their hands clean of NRA funding and enact stricter gun control laws in the wake of last week's massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
The students—who spoke at a town hall last night at Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church—were joined by two Democratic lawmakers, U.S. Rep. David Price and state representative Cynthia Ball, as well as parents, activists, and a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting. The speakers presented a variety of perspectives, but all emphasized the need for "commonsense" gun reform—such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons—and vowed to vote out lawmakers who have received money from the NRA.
"I have a zero-tolerance policy on politicians that get money from the NRA," said Aaron Wolff, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre, to thunderous applause. "I also believe that arming our teachers is possibly the stupidest idea I've ever heard," he added, referring proposals by President Trump and some North Carolina lawmakers
to provide teachers with guns to prevent future school shootings.
The event was sponsored by the Triangle Indivisible Daily Call to Action group, the Carolina Peace Center, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Empty chairs and photos of North Carolina Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, as well as Republican Representative George Holding, graced the main stage. In between speakers, the crowd chanted: "Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to go!"
At the beginning of the event, Representative David Price, a Wake County Democrat, said it was "incredible" that the U.S. couldn't deal with the scourge of gun violence that has plagued schools and communities.
"Other countries have mental health challenges, other countries have challenges with violence, but only in this country does this result in daily carnage on our streets," he said. "And all too often, mass killings in schools and theaters. What is the difference? The difference is the weapon, the easy access to weapons, particularly
weapons of mass killing. We need to be honest about that and demand action."
Multiple speakers pointed to the gun of choice for the suspect in the Parkland shooting, an AR-15 rifle, and called on Congress to once again pass an assault weapons ban. In 1994, lawmakers did pass a federal assault weapons ban, but it expired in 2004 and has yet to be revived, despite broad support from the public. According to a Quinnipiac poll
released this week, sixty-seven percent of Americans support banning assault weapons, and ninety-seven percent favor universal background checks. Just twenty percent of people surveyed said that arming teachers would help prevent future school shootings, compared with forty percent who believed stricter gun control laws would be more effective.
State representative Cynthia Ball recited some of those statistics and told the crowd she wished her colleagues in the General Assembly "had your like mind. Sadly, I think if we had asked, we probably could have gotten a lot more photographs of people who were not willing to stand up and support what you are fighting for every day."
Ball also told the crowd to keep an eye on HB 746
, the legislature's omnibus gun law, which would have allowed North Carolians to carry concealed handguns without a permit. "Put the pressure on to make sure that bill does not come back to us in our short session," she said.
High school speakers talked about their fears of going to school in a climate where news of mass shootings seems increasingly common. "I don't want to die in my high school. I don't want to die in college. Tell these people behind
me," a high school senior said, referring to Senators Burr, Tillis, and Representative Holding, "that you do not want me to die. Go register to vote. Let them know. Let them know that you do not deserve to die in a country where gun violence has become too extreme."
His speech was followed by cheers of "throw them out!"
"The fact that we are relying on teenage survivors of a mass shooting for a change instead of the politicians we voted in is unacceptable," another high school freshman said. "Politicians need to make it harder for people to legally purchase military grade weapons. They need to enforce stronger background checks, they need to stop taking million dollar donations from the NRA, they need to stop praying and actually get up and do something before more lives are taken away."
"There's absolutely no logical reason an ordinary civilian needs an AR-15," she added. "Trump and other politicians in DC might think I'm just a kid who is not capable of making a difference, but we'll see what they think about that when I vote in 2021."