In the wake of the shooting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that left faculty member Zijie Yan dead, several elected officials across the state, including Triangle area representatives, released statements reacting to the shooting.
The Chronicle looked into some of these officials' voting and campaign funding histories related to gun policy. Here’s what it found.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC)
Cooper called the shooting “a tragic way to start a new semester" and pledged to provide any necessary assistance from the state to the UNC community in an X post.
Cooper vetoed SB 41, a bill eliminating local sheriff background checks for handguns, but the the veto was overridden by the North Carolina General Assembly. He also launched a safe gun storage initiative known as NC S.A.F.E. in June.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R-NC)
Robinson previously came under fire for his comments towards the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In a Facebook post shared after the Florida shooting, he called student activists “spoiled, angry, know it all CHILDREN,” “spoiled little bastards” and “media prosti-tots.”
As lieutenant governor, Robinson acts as president of the Senate but is unable to vote unless a tie occurs. He also serves on the NRA Board of Directors.
In 2022, the NRA Political Victory Fund spent more than $82,000 to get Robinson elected and also directly donated $5,400 directly to his campaign.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Tillis wrote on X that the shooting was “heartbreaking, and something that no student, teacher, or parent should ever have to live through.” He said that lawmakers must “work together to protect our schools, confront the nation's mental health crisis, and keep firearms out of the wrong hands.”
Tillis has received $5,611,796 from the NRA throughout his career.
Tillis voted in favor of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, SB 2938, increasing background check requirements for individuals under 21 who want to buy, sell or transfer firearms.
Tillis sponsored SB 428, which would prohibit the federal government from contracting with entities that discriminate against firearm or ammunition industries, and SB 214, which would allow individuals with a concealed carry permit in one state to carry or possess it in another state allowing residents to carry concealed firearms.
U.S. Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC)
Budd expressed his condolences for Yan’s family and the UNC community and thanked law enforcement for their response to the shooting in a post on X. Budd expressed his commitment to “boosting security and tackling our country's mental health challenges.”
Budd has received $2,022,348 from the NRA throughout his career.
Budd voted against the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022 and the Active Shooter Alert Act of 2022.
Budd sponsored SB 1680, which would prohibit federal funding of state firearm ownership databases. Like Tillis, Budd also sponsored SB 214 and SB 428.
U.S. Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC4)
Foushee, who represents both Duke and UNC’s campuses, wrote on X that she was “absolutely devastated by the news of another school shooting, this time right here in our community on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus.” She gave condolences to the UNC community and Yan’s family while expressing gratitude for law enforcement and first responders at the scene.
“[I]t is clear that lawmakers must take concrete action against the horrific acts of gun violence that plague cities and towns across the nation. We must urgently pass lifesaving common sense gun reform legislation to protect our communities and prevent future tragedies,” Foushee wrote.
Foushee voted against HB 49, which hopes to repeal concealed carry firearms safety training requirements in some cases, and against SB 43, intended to allow concealed firearms into churches and other places of worship with associated schools attached.
State Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham)
Murdock posted a photo on X with UNC Sidechat messages after the shooting with the caption “These are comments from actual UNC students. No student, faculty member or support staff member should be in fear of getting shot while attaining their education, or educating students. This has to stop.”
Murdock also reposted Von Haefen’s photo of an attendee at UNC’s vigil holding a sign saying, “If I am killed here, throw my ashes on the legislature.”
Murdock sponsored the Firearm Safe Storage Awareness Initiative, SB 67, the Increase Safe Use of Firearms bill, SB496, and the Firearm Safety Products Sales Tax Exemption, SB 498. She also further sponsored the Gun Violence Protection Act, HB 289.
State Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham)
Morey called the day “a not so comforting day of school" while students were on lockdown. “Shelter in place does not have to be the norm,” she wrote. “We need sensible gun safety legislation now.”
Morey also reposted a political cartoon from Granville Co. Democrats’ X account. The cartoon, posted in reply to Tillis’s statement, depicts an elephant carrying a bag full of guns labeled “Pistol Permit Repeal, scattering guns from the bag onto graves labeled “gun victim.”
Morey additionally sponsored HB 53 prohibiting firearms in unattended vehicles and HB 254 requiring proper storage of firearms to protect minors. She voted in favor of HB 72, the Firearm Safe Storage Awareness Initiative.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford)
Moore wrote on X that he is “heartbroken” and grieving the loss of life in the shooting, offering prayers for “students, staff and all of my Tarheel family.” He also thanked officers and first responders who secured the crime scene.
From 2016 to 2022, Moore received $8,000 from the NRA.
Moore sponsored the Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act, which would prohibit credit card companies from separately categorizing gun and ammunition transactions. Moore also voted with the Republican supermajority in the state house to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of SB 41, which loosens firearm regulations in the state.
The bill passed into law in March, repealing a requirement for individuals to obtain permits before purchasing firearms, authorizing concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on certain school properties and authorizing concealed carry for some law enforcement facility employees. The bill also launches a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative. The veto override vote passed along party lines in both houses of the legislature.
Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake)
Blue called the shooting “devastating, terrifying, but increasingly common,” adding that this “cannot become the new normal.”
Blue voted in favor of the Gun Violence Prevention Act, SB 650. Blue also sponsored the Firearm Safe Storage Awareness Initiative, SB 67, and the Firearm Safety Products Sales Tax Exemption, SB 498.
House Democratic Leader Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Randolph)
Reives wrote that he was “devastated by the tragedy that took place on UNC’s campus today. My prayers are with the loved ones who lost a member of their family, and with the entire Tar Heel community grieving this senseless act of violence.”
Before the vote to override Cooper’s veto of SB 41, Reives objected to the Chair of the Committee on Rules cutting off debate, arguing that lawmakers should be heard before voting.
When the House voted to override the veto quickly, Reives said to the gallery, spoke to the gallery that was gathered to watch the vote. “I want to apologize on behalf of this body for you seeing what you just saw. Your teachers will explain to you we are a deliberative body. We recognize all viewpoints. But that was not shown to you today. And that breaks my heart.,” Reives said on the House floor.
Reeves voted in favor of the Firearm Safe Storage Awareness Initiative, HB 72, and the modification of the firearms retrieval process in domestic violence cases, HB 807.
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Anisha Reddy is a Trinity junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Ayra Charania is a Trinity junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.