Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat who spent 18 years on the district court bench, wants to make it possible for North Carolina judges to remove guns from people who’ve exhibited “threatening, erratic or dangerous behavior.”
The lawmaker revealed her plan on Monday, less than a week after a South Florida 19-year-old named Nikolas Cruz walked into a high school, from which he had been expelled for disciplinary reasons, and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle.
The school shooting left 17 dead and added a new voice to calls for reform of gun laws — the students who were inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as the shooter ired shot after shot on Feb. 14.
Cruz, according to numerous news reports, was repeatedly identified by federal and local agencies as a troubled teen, after people who knew him complained that he could be a threat to himself or others.
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The FBI acknowledged on Friday that the agency had failed to investigate a tip called into a hotline last month by someone reporting Cruz to be a gun owner who seemed to be bent on killing people, possibly at a school.
Morey, who said she would also support federal legislation banning all AR-15s, semi-automatic military guns and bump stocks, said her proposal was not about “taking away gun rights.”
“This gun restraining order proposal is not a solution to gun violence, but can be a step in the right direction to thwart future tragedies as it provides for people who ‘see something’ to have the power not only to ‘say something’ but ...‘do something’ by going to court,” Morey said in a statement outlining her proposal to create a Gun Violence Restraining Order. “As we now know numerous warnings about Nikolas Cruz were missed in Broward County. The FBI received the exact information that would have allowed a citizen to apply for a GVRO.”
Morey’s proposal would give judges another tool similar to a domestic violence restraining order to get weapons quickly and temporarily out of the hands of people exhibiting threatening or dangerous behavior.
Under her proposal, anyone such as a teacher, co-worker or acquaintance who has first-hand knowledge of someone in possession of or with access to a firearm behaving in a threatening manner could petition a district court judge for a gun violence restraining order.
If granted, the judge would order law enforcement to temporarily remove any weapons, then schedule a hearing within 10 business days to give the person and others an opportunity to discuss whether to bar the person from having firearms for a full year.
“It’s not taking any gun rights away,” Morey said. “It’s trying to protect our citizens.”
California adopted a law in 2014 similar to the one proposed by Morey. Washington state adopted a law similar to California’s in 2016.
Connecticut drafted new gun measures after 20 children and six educators were killed in 2012 during the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The state has an “extreme risk protection order,” which predates Sandy Hook, that gives law enforcement officers the power to temporarily take away an individual’s guns if that person makes threats, acts violently, abuses drugs or commits animal cruelty.
The General Assembly is not in session, and not scheduled to return to Raleigh for business until May. Morey said she hoped she would not face resistance from her fellow lawmakers, but the General Assembly in recent years has eased gun regulations, not expanded them.
“What I would say to them is listen to the kids in Florida,” Morey said.