Gov. Cooper signs gun safety order; calls for action on ‘red flag’ bill

State - Regional

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed executive directives Monday aimed at addressing gun safety but also called on state lawmakers to act on bills that haven’t received a vote.

“Surely we should be able to have a conversation on these issues. I fear that they don’t want to have a conversation because it’s too rational,” Cooper said.

The governor spoke at the beginning of a summit on school safety in Greensboro, which the NC Department of Public Safety hosted.

The executive directives call for the State Bureau of Investigation to provide Behavioral Threat Assessment training to police agencies and continue to update the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Last year, Cooper directed the agency to take a closer look at how the state shared information. Since then, Cooper said a working group found more than 284,000 individual convictions that had not been reported to the database.

He also called on the Department of Health and Human Services to do further public education on safe firearm storage.

Beyond that, he called on state lawmakers to take up bills to expand background checks for firearms purchases and to establish a red flag law. The law would allow a judge to temporarily take a person’s guns from them if they’re found to be a danger to themselves or others.

“And, we’re gonna do what we can under my executive authority, but we need some laws to change to be as strong as we want it to be,” Cooper said.

Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) has led a group in the state House of Representatives that has studied school safety.

“What we are looking at as far as red flag goes, we don’t like just the generic language. What we’d like to do is bring people in and see how it accommodates North Carolina if we need to have that or if we don’t need to have that,” he said.

He said his committee has focused on mental and behavioral health “because we honestly believe the core root of the issue is relative to mental health or behavioral health.”

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about that at the start of Monday’s summit.

“We cannot equate mental illness with violence. Individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims,” she said.

Both the governor and Republican lawmakers have proposed additional funding in this year’s budget for mental health professionals in schools and for mental health services in various communities. No new budget has taken effect since the fiscal year began on July 1, as they remain at an impasse over whether to expand Medicaid and other issues.

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