Raleigh, NC – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper delivered keynote remarks Thursday at the virtual annual conference of the 97 Percent, a bipartisan group focused on gun safety.
“What’s next? An innovative approach to reducing gun-related deaths.
Statistics released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show that five North Carolinians die each day from firearm-related deaths, and more than 1,700 will die in 2020. In 2021, 116 North Carolina children died from gunshot wounds. Black North Carolinians are nearly twice as likely to be killed by a gun as white North Carolinians.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released a document outlining public health strategies to reduce gun violence and misuse, not only in shooting cases, but also in accidents and suicides.
“Last week, I was talking to some emergency room physicians about gun violence and its impact on young people,” Cooper said. “That discussion was exciting and terrifying. One doctor told me, ‘Putting pressure on a 4-year-old’s gaping bullet wound changes your life.’ Another said: ‘There’s a scream when the mother tells her wounded child is dead. It’s a distinct, soul-crushing sound. I never want to hear it again.’
After the rally shooting left a tragic scar in the region, Cooper spoke about legislation to improve gun safety with more urgency. He wants more steps to be taken to get guns out of the hands of those who many feel are out of reach.
“My words and prayers may have brought some comfort, but they wanted more,” Cooper said after speaking with families affected by the Hedingham shooting. “They were angry, they wanted justice and they wanted it not to happen again.”
Cooper said most people in North Carolina want to do something.
“We will not take guns away from responsible owners,” Cooper said. “We all want to be safe.”
Earlier this month, Cooper brought law enforcement and gun experts together for a roundtable to examine the issue. North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Cody Kinsley said it helps to see it as a public health issue.
“First and foremost, we need to follow the data … to see where these things are happening,” Kinsley said.
Kinsley also suggested that leaders talk to those who know gun violence first-hand to find out what can be done to stop it. Other suggestions include education about better gun storage and strengthening protective orders.
Kinsley thinks people can stick together on this one.
“That’s why we wanted to start in a place where we have consensus and where we’re already making efforts,” Kinsley said.
Leaders acknowledged Thursday that the fixes will cost a lot of money. And if changes are to happen, state lawmakers need to get on board, too.