The Pulse

Cooper launches Office of Violence Prevention as Republicans send gun reform bill to his desk

By: - March 20, 2023 6:30 am
Gov. Roy Cooper

Last week Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he’d launch an Office of Violence Prevention, an initiative aimed at reducing violence and firearm misuse across North Carolina.

“All of us deserve to feel safe in our homes, our schools and our communities,” Cooper said in a statement. “This new office will help coordinate the efforts to reduce violent crime, tackle both intentional and careless gun injuries and deaths, and work to keep people safe.”

Cooper created the office via an executive order. That mandate lays out an array of stats justifying the office’s creation, including that an average of five North Carolinians die each day from gun violence, more than half of deaths caused by guns are suicides, and the presence of a firearm in an incident of domestic violence increases the risk of homicide by more than 500%. It also cites a national study finding that firearm deaths have overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of death for children.

Per Cooper’s order, the office will treat gun violence as a public health crisis, building a web of cooperation between local and state agencies to respond to violent crime and make communities safer across North Carolina. There will also be a Community Advisory Board, which will help develop the office’s strategic plan.

“Violence doesn’t just damage those who are directly impacted – it can be traumatic to the entire community,” Attorney General Josh Stein, who is also running for governor, said in a statement. “We can help break these devastating cycles of violence by investing in our communities, taking some common sense gun violence prevention measures, and strengthening partnerships between law enforcement and the people they serve.”

The Department of Public Safety has posted a job opening for an executive director on its website. The position pays between $85,000 and $121,507.

Cooper framed the office as part of his ongoing effort to reduce gun violence in North Carolina. He noted that he has vetoed bills that would weaken background checks required to buy firearms and has advocated for legislation to temporarily take guns away from people deemed by the courts to be a risk to themselves or others. That concept is one among many in gun reform bills floated by Democrats in the current legislative session, but those proposals have not advanced in the Republican-dominated legislature.

Republicans have sent their own “commonsense gun legislation” to Cooper’s desk, repealing a pistol permit required to buy a gun in North Carolina. Cooper has vetoed the proposal in the past, but Republicans might have the votes to overturn it this year thanks to gains they made in last year’s midterm elections.

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Kelan Lyons
Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.