Cooper launches gun safety program similar to provision in vetoed bill

Gov. Roy Cooper talks with an attendee at his NC S.A.F.E. kickoff event. Courtesy of N.C. Governor’s office

RALEIGH —Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced the NC S.A.F.E. (Secure All Firearms Effectively) program on June 6 to “urge North Carolinians to take action to safely store their firearms and save lives.”  

The N.C. S.A.F.E. website has a map of safe storage locations as well as firearm storage options and a checklist for the steps to effectively secure firearms. Additionally, a YouTube channel has been set up with video tips on storing firearms. 

“For those of us who own guns, it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and out of the wrong hands,” the governor said in a press release. “Safe storage is an essential part of responsible gun ownership, and this initiative will encourage North Carolinians to safely secure their firearms in their homes and vehicles.” 

With the rollout of the program, Cooper also proclaimed June 4-10 as the “NC S.A.F.E. Week of Action” to raise awareness about safe gun storage.  

Cooper’s N.C. S.A.F.E. program will cost $2.5 million, and the state is applying for federal funding to extend the program. The money will pay for television ads and the purchase of 25,000 gun locks and 200 gun safes to hand out at events during the weeklong statewide tour promoting the program. 

The program appears to mirror certain aspects of Senate Bill 41, a bill vetoed by Cooper during the current legislative session that was overridden. The bill, now law, repealed the state’s duplicative pistol permit purchase law but also included a public awareness campaign for safe gun storage.  

Under the gun safety section of the new law, which is effective July 1, the N.C. Department of Public Safety (DPS) would develop an educational website that would include information on firearm storage, relevant state laws, how to get free gun locks and a toolkit for local governments to set up their own safe storage initiatives. 

“I think the governor is doing everything he can to stay politically relevant. Last month it was his fake state of emergency,” Sen. Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck) told North State Journal in an email statement. “Now, he’s taking a provision from a bill he vetoed and using it for his own gain. I’m not sure I’d call that governing. At this point it’s not worth paying much attention to.” 

Additional gun safety legislation being worked on in the General Assembly includes House Bill 56, which addresses the safe storage of guns and includes a tax credit. The bill is being led by Reps. Erin Paré (R-Wake), Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne), Jay Adams (R-Catawba) and Allison Dahle (D-Wake).  

Reporting to the Joint Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services on the progress of the gun safety provision of the law by DPS, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Wildlife Resources Commission is required by Sept. 1, 2024.  

Cooper’s press release quotes N.C. Department of Public Safety Deputy Secretary William Lassiter, saying that children gaining access to guns is increasing and “more than 20% of youth car break-ins involve guns. That’s double what we’ve seen in recent years.” 

The governor’s N.C. S.A.F.E. press release lists increases in crime statistics for gun theft in urban areas, inadvertently admitting those crimes have spiked during his second term. 

Cooper’s statement also pointed to his March 2023 creation of a statewide Office of Violence Prevention that contains gun safety issues and his 2019 gun safety directive to the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) to “close crime reporting gaps between state and federal agencies.”  

The press release accompanying the 2019 directive says that Cooper directed the SBI to do a “comprehensive inventory of the quality of information North Carolina shares with the federal background check system known as National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).” 

The press release then states the study found “284,289 individual instances of criminal convictions that had previously been unreported in the NICS database” that were then corrected and added to NICS.  

No further updates appear to have been published related to Cooper’s 2019 directive. 

About A.P. Dillon 1320 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_