The Pulse

Cumberland County pastor: North Carolina should keep its pistol permit law

By: - March 23, 2023 6:35 am
The author says it’s imperative that North Carolina keep its handgun background check law. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Once a month, the organization that I lead holds a public vigil for peace and nonviolence in the city of Fayetteville. The purpose of the vigil is to raise social awareness, promote peace, and build a resilient and communal consciousness against the overwhelming and depressing wave of gun violence that has plagued our city and society.

As fate would have it, the vigils are held in front of a mural of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a man who advocated national and international nonviolence, but one who also opined that the choice would eventually be, either nonviolence or nonexistence. And while I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, I’m afraid that if we don’t find a way to mitigate our public rage and do something to prevent more guns from being sold, legally or illegally, then the stark choice that Dr. King’s outlined rings truer than ever.

As a pastor who’s eulogized and provided to support to numerous families and victims of gun violence, it’s heartbreaking to interface with so much tragic and avoidable death. Many of these circumstances were interpersonal conflicts which could have been resolved without death had there not been a firearm involved. In 2021 alone, Cumberland County experienced 94 gun deaths — 54 of them homicides, according to CDC data. Every one of those 94 lives were beloved members of our community. Every death was tragic, and preventable.

At a time when violence has reached crisis levels, we must use every tool we have to protect every life we can. In addition to our very effective campaign for social peace, one such tool is the state’s Pistol Purchase Permit system, which the General Assembly voted last week to repeal. This system requires that everyone who buys a handgun must have a background check, no matter where they buy it – even from a private seller online or at a gun show.

Permit-to-purchase laws are one of the most effective policies to reduce gun homicides and gun suicides. Twenty-two years after Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase law passed, their firearm homicide rate had declined 28% and their gun suicide rate declined 33% compared to rates expected without this law. In contrast, nine years after Missouri repealed a similar law, the state’s firearm homicide rate increased 47%, and their firearm suicide rate increased 24% compared to the rate expected had they not repealed their law.

Following Missouri’s example would be catastrophic for Cumberland County and other communities around our state. Governor Cooper should veto this bill, and if does so, I call on all lawmakers who represent Cumberland County to sustain that common sense action. Lives are literally on the line.

Rev. Floyd WickerRev. Floyd Wicker is the President of The People’s Fellowship of North Carolina, an Adjunct Professor at Shaw University Divinity School, and a member of the board of directors of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.

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