Gun rights advocates picket Tillis office in Raleigh

Activists protesting Tillis’ involvement in recently passed gun control package 

Gun rights advocates protest at the Raleigh office of U.S. Sen Thom Tillis on Friday, June 24, 2022. Photo via A.P. Dillon, North State Journal

RALEIGH — On June 24, around 100 gun rights activists picketed outside of the Raleigh office of Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis over his involvement in the recently passed gun control bill, the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022.” 

The protest was organized by North Carolina’s largest gun rights advocacy group, Grassroots North Carolina (GRNC). Also represented at the protest was the national firearms group, Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the crowd gathered heard from Stephen Willeford, the hero who engaged and eventually stopped the Sutherland Springs Church shooter in 2017 in Texas. 

Tillis was referred to as “Traitor Thom” and North Carolina’s other Sen. Richard Burr was dubbed “Benedict Burr” throughout the remarks made by speakers at the event. 

Tillis was among the four senators identified as main authors of the Safer Communities Act (SCA) along with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). 

“If you do not know, Senator Tillis closed his office today because he did not want to hear from us,” GOA Director for North Carolina and Vice President of Operations for GRNC Andy Stevens said at the onset of the protest. “He did not even want his staff to hear from us and he apparently told the courthouse people that because his office is closed, [that] we are not here on official business and therefore they will not let us in the building to see for certain whether his office is open or closed or even use the restrooms.” 

Stevens told North State Journal that Congress’ actions were “an extreme disappointment” as was the involvement in it by “traitor Thom Tillis.” 

“He has served his usefulness,” said Stevens. “He has turned tail; he has turned sides.” Stevens added that “he is not only a traitor, but he’s a coward” referring to the closure of his Raleigh office on the day of the protest. 

In his opening remarks, GRNC President Paul Valone mentioned a victory for citizens in the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Superintendent of the New York State Police which involved a law requiring individuals to show ”proper cause” to obtain concealed carry permits in order to carry a handgun outside of their homes. 

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling earlier last week struck down a New York gun law, calling it inconsistent with Second Amendment Protections. Thomas’ majority opinion singled out “proper cause” standards, like New York’s, and similar measures in place in California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The Bruen ruling has been arguably one of the most anticipated rulings on firearms since Heller in 2008. 

Valone described problematic portions of the SCA, saying “They want to use the so-called “boyfriend loophole” to increase the number of people prohibited from owning guns for not having committed felonies but instead only misdemeanors.” 

Valone continued, “And they brought back waiting periods for one group of gun buyers – those under the age of 21. But how long do you think it will be before they try to add more people to that waiting period category?” 

Valone asked how long it would be until lawmakers come back and try to close more “loopholes,” stating that the only loophole they really want to close is “your ability to own firearms.” 

North State Journal reached out to Tillis’ office for comment but had not yet received a response but did obtain what appears to be a uniform response letter to inquiries about the SCA in which Tillis defends the bill as a “a carefully negotiated response to gun violence.”  

The form letter denies that the SCA creates “red flag” laws despite “crisis prevention” funding incentives in the measure geared toward that end. In the paragraph following “red flag” laws, Tillis then says there are “guardrails” put in place to “protect due process” should states take the crisis prevention funding. 

“Traitor Thom didn’t just vote for the gun control the Senate passed yesterday,” said Valone. “oh no, he helped write it. It was traitor Thom who Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tasked with negotiating this so-called compromise with anti-gun Democrats Chris Murphy and others.” 

Valone also said “Tillis thinks because he has four more years to his next reelection that people will forget…I have bad news for him. I see a primary in his future.” 

Tillis isn’t the only bill author receiving pushback. During his speech at the Texas GOP convention earlier this month, Cornyn was booed for nearly 20 minutes by attendees for his role in the bill.  

The SCA has been called the most major piece of legislation moved forward since the Brady Bill and its passage happened within days. 

Within hours of the release of the SCA’s text, the Senate held a procedural vote on June 21 allowing the bill to proceed and on June 23 voted 65-34 to invoke cloture before approving the Act in a 65-33 vote that evening. 

Fourteen Republican Senators voted for the bill including both Burr and Tillis. 

The SCA hit the U.S. House of Representatives the next day on June 24 and passed in a 234-193 vote with 14 Republicans joining Democrats backing the bill. However, unlike in the Senate, no North Carolina Republican representatives voted in favor of the bill including Republicans’ 2022 U.S. Senate nominee, Ted Budd. 

After speeding through both houses of Congress in a matter of days, the measure was signed by President Joe Biden on June 25.  

The National Rifle Association opposed the SCA and in a statement said it does little to reduce violent crime and can be “abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians.” 

About A.P. Dillon 1211 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_