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NC child safety leaders to advocate for safe gun storage in 2023

Posted September 26, 2022 6:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2022 6:29 p.m. EDT

Child safety leaders in North Carolina said they'll try again next year to convince lawmakers to approve a statewide education campaign on safe gun storage.

There were 116 children who died in 2021 from gunshot wounds, which included homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings. Firearm deaths were the leading cause of injury death in 2021 for children in North Carolina.

According to state data, as of 2020, more children are now killed by guns in North Carolina than by motor vehicle accidents. And the use of guns in suicides by minors has also risen sharply.

Gun sales spiked in North Carolina in 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic, and many of those guns aren’t being stored safely.

According to a state survey last year:

  • 42% of North Carolina adults said they have a firearm at home
  • 45% said they store it loaded
  • 53% of those gun owners say they don’t lock it up

Even before the pandemic, the Child Fatality Task Force advocated for a statewide educational campaign about safe gun storage, including free gun locks. Task force member Alan Dellapenna said it’s also a school safety issue, since most guns used in school shootings are brought from home.

“The issue is not going away, we know that,” Dellapenna said. “We would like to mitigate the problem in the state and begin the work.”

In 2021, the state House passed a bill to fund the program and put it in the budget. However, the state Senate refused to consider it. Bill sponsor and State Sen. Bobby Hanig, R- Currituck County, said Senate leaders wouldn’t tell him why.

“We're not going to take up any gun bills this year,” Hanig said. “That's pretty much all I got. I don't know if there's underlying reasons or not.”

Hanig, who previously served in the state House, is now in the Senate. He said he plans to try again for the program next year. Hanig said it’s not a partisan issue and it’s not anti-gun.

“I'm a big Second Amendment person, 100%,” Hanig said. “And this, this has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.

“This is just common sense. And, it's education. And, it's voluntary. Nothing mandatory about it. Nothing says you have to do this.”

WRAL News has asked state Senate leaders why the safe gun storage bill didn’t advance. They have not responded.

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