Our right to bear arms has caused us unbearable sorrow. On April 28, a mass shooter took the lives of four individuals at Hardaman Circle in Watauga County. As our community grieves the tragic deaths of Sgt. Chris Ward, Deputy Logan Fox, George Ligon and Michelle Ligon, we must confront an all-too-silent killer: gun violence.

According to statistics from Everytown for Gun Safety, gun violence takes the lives of 1,388 North Carolinians, injures an additional 3,407 residents and costs taxpayers $418 million annually. Out of total gun deaths, more than 58 percent are caused by suicide while about 37 percent are the result of homicide. Other causes of death include unintentional incidents (2.6 percent), and police shootings (1.4 percent).In Watauga County alone, 24 people fatally fell victim to gun violence from 2015-2019.

Nationally, more than 38,000 people die from, and 84,776 are injured by, firearms annually at an economic cost of $280.1 billion.

Across the Nation, 19 states have adopted Red Flag Laws as a method to combat gun violence. These laws allow law enforcement and family members to petition a state court to temporality seize a person’s firearms if they are deemed to present a danger to themselves or others. After conducting a hearing, a judge may issue a temporary firearm confiscation which can expire or be extended indefinitely, according to Everytown.

North Carolina has not yet adopted any Red Flag Laws, nor any major state-level gun control measures. Yet, if implemented they could prevent countless deaths.

Members of the shooter’s family contacted the county’s Sheriff’s Office three days before April 28’s events. According to Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman, they warned deputies that the shooter had obtained a large number of weapons and that the shooter posed a risk to themselves and others.

Adequate Red Flag Laws could have allowed the confiscation of the shooter’s weapons before they were used.

In response to the mass shooting on April 28, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05), State Rep. Ray Pickett (NC-93) and State Sen. Deanna Ballard (NC-45) offered their thoughts and prayers. Frankly, the bare minimum for a response.

All due respect, but thoughts and prayers won’t prevent the next tragedy; however, action and accountability will. In Congress, Foxx has voted against background checks and for loosened interstate firearm purchase restrictions, all the while endorsed by the National Rifle Association along with their numerous campaign donation checks, according to OnTheIssues.

As a candidate, Picket claimed our state had the laws needed to protect public gun safety, according to IVoterGuide. North Carolina has no law regulating assault weapons, known as “weapons of war” due to their ability to kill a significant number of individuals within seconds.

According to the State Senator’s campaign website, Ballard takes pride in “opposing gun laws that restrict our Second Amendment rights.” Unfortunately, this stance is contrary to that of the Supreme Court.

Although the court has upheld the amendment’s individual and collective rights, it has also declared that those rights are not unlimited in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. Meaning, citizens have the right to bear arms while government has the right to reasonably limit the sale, use and possession of those arms.

The Second Amendment provides for “well-regulated” militias as well as “the right of the people to keep and bear arms;” however, it does not establish an absolute right to purchase arms nor the ability to own the number needed to arm a militia.

Our communities need common-sense gun control and the adoption of Red Flag Laws would be a positive and significant first step.

That said, one question remains for Foxx, Pickett, and Ballard: How many people have to die before you take action?

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By Adam Zebzda, Boone.

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