Mayor renew call for gun legislation

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 07:42 PM

A trio of Triangle mayors led by Durham’s Bill Bell on Thursday sought to put pressure on U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to support an expansion of mandated pre-purchase background checks of would-be firearms owners.

Bell, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe held a news conference at Durham’s City Hall as part of an “action day” organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

All are part of the group, which is led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

They indicated they’d like allies to call their “congressional representatives,” in Bell’s words, and Hagan, in Kleinschmidt’s, before a U.S. Senate debate that’s likely to play out after the Easter holiday.

The mayors were accompanied by Effie Steele, a Durham resident whose daughter was murdered late in 2007.

She said North Carolinians need Hagan “to care about us, to care enough to vote yes for universal background checks” and a crackdown on gun trafficking.

“We voted for you for such a time as this,” Steele said, alluding to the first-term Democrat who won her seat in 2008 and thus is up for re-election next year.

Hagan is, however, among a number of Senate Democrats who’ve been on the fence about the various pieces of gun-related legislation President Barack Obama has requested in response to December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

She’s signaled conceptual support for expanded background checks but reserved judgment on the bill being worked on in the Senate.

The background-check issue turns on the present exemption from checks for firearms purchased at gun shows or from individual owners, as opposed to those bought at a store.

The mayors at Thursday’s event had to deal with pushback from critics of the potential legislation, particular Sean Sorrentino, a Raleigh blogger who terms himself “pro-choice on self-defense.”

Sorrentino said the prospective background-check legislation would make “me, my wife and my friend into felons” by unduly restricting loans or even momentary transfers of possession of a firearm.

Bell and Kleinschmidt rejected the criticism, Kleinschmidt arguing the bill would only cover sales and ensure that “the people purchasing firearms are not felons or seriously mentally ill.”

Other questions came from former Carrboro police officer Bob Murdaugh, who said that while firearms technology is relatively static, “if anything’s changed it’s the way people treat one another.”

He argued that private firearms ownership is valuable for self-defense. “If you’re not able to hold the fort until the cavalry gets there, you may be out of luck,” he said.

Bell didn’t quarrel with Murdaugh’s point about society. “Obviously people have changed, to a certain extent, in how they deal with their anger,” he said.