North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said on Sunday the state’s self-defense law is “too loose,” that gun laws should be tightened to reduce gun violence and school shootings, and that politicians shouldn’t tell women when they may get abortions.
Stein, a Democrat in his second term, made the comments as the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Fayetteville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The meeting was conducted via the online Zoom streaming chat service, with Stein calling in from out of town. About 50 people joined the Zoom.
AG says ‘stand your ground’ self-defense law goes too far
A participant asked Stein to discuss the fatal shooting of Fayetteville resident Jason Walker early in January by off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff Deputy Jeffrey Hash. The shooting was investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation and an independent prosecutor concluded that this was a case of justified self-defense.
The prosecutor’s findings were that Walker jumped onto the hood of Hash’s truck, broke off a windshield wiper, began smashing the windshield with the broken-off wiper, then lunged at Hash with the broken wiper after Hash got out of the truck to confront him. Hash fired four shots when Walker lunged at him, the prosecutor’s report said.
Stein said he cannot discuss a specific case such as the Walker shooting. Instead, he criticized changes that in 2011 expanded the scope of North Carolina’s self-defense laws. Stein was a state senator at the time and he voted against the changes.
“You already have a right to self-defense, no matter where you are, where if somebody is coming at you and you have a reasonable fear for your life, or those of your loved ones, you can take action to defend yourself and stop that’s a threat,” he said.
The revised law, which Stein described as “stand your ground,” says “that you have a presumption that you were justified, rather than having to prove you’re justified. And I think the law is — is too loose, and creates incentives for people to shoot first.”
The 2011 self-defense bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Bev. Perdue.
Stein wants to raise the AR-15 age; remind people to lock up their guns
A meeting participant asked Stein if he is involved in efforts to reduce school shootings.
Stein said he is on a school safety task force that is making recommendations to schools and school systems.
“But one thing that has become crystal clear to me is that gun violence is related to guns — there’s just so many guns happening, being purchased in this country,” he said. “There’s been a 31% uptick in gun violence from 2019 to 2020. That’s nearly one-third increase in just a single year.”
Some of the violence has been attributed to the societal disruptions from the COVID pandemic, Stein said, “But a lot of it is because it’s so easy for guns to get into the wrong people’s hands.
“There’s been a dramatic — dramatic increase in thefts of guns, people not storing their guns safely in cars or at home. A dramatic increase in death by suicide from guns,” he said.
He called for public safety campaigns to remind and encourage people to store their guns safely, and for “red flag” laws that allow courts to temporarily take firearms from people who are at risk of shooting themselves or other people.
Stein also said the age for someone to buy an AR-15 rifle should be raised from 18 to 21. The AR-15 rifle was developed in the 1950s for use on the battlefield but now is popular on the civilian market. The man who killed 19 students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, in May was 18 years old and used an AR-15 rifle he had legally purchased.
“We don’t let young people buy a cigarette or a beer. But we let them buy an AR-15? It just doesn’t make any sense,” Stein said.
He also called for comprehensive, universal background checks to ensure that certain people cannot easily, legally buy guns. Among them: violent felons, people on the anti-terrorism “no-fly” list, people with domestic violence protective orders or those with pathological mental illnesses.
North Carolina has a law banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, but in a federal lawsuit, this law was blocked from enforcement by the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.
Now that the recent Dobbs ruling at the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, states are free to enact abortion bans. But Stein last week announced his office would not ask the federal court to lift the injunction that is blocking enforcement of the 20-week law.
The future of abortion in North Carolina: Three things you need to know
At Sunday’s NAACP meeting, Stein reiterated his support for abortion rights and cited the recent case of a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who had to go to Indiana to get an abortion because it was illegal to do so in Ohio.
There will be “tragic story after story because of these restrictions states are putting into place,” Stein said. “And I just think we should have women make these decisions for themselves, talking with their doctors, and it shouldn’t be up to politicians.”
Senior North Carolina reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and [email protected].
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: NC Attorney Gen. talks to NAACP about abortion, self-defense, gun laws
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