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Gov. Cooper creates new office to tackle gun violence

NC Governor Roy Cooper
Matt Ramey
for WUNC
Gov. Roy Cooper wants to coordinate state efforts around gun violence prevention.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is creating a new office — "The Office of Violence Prevention" — to address the uptick in gun-related deaths and injuries.

The new program will be part of the state’s Department of Public Safety. The goal is to bring together a variety of leaders and programs working on gun issues, including law enforcement and public health.

Cooper says it’ll be the first of its kind in the South.

“I know that this office will be a catalyst for safer communities for years to come," he said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "One of the first things that we talked about is you think about violence as a crime issue, but it’s also very much a public health issue... A lot of great things are happening across the state, but we need to make it more cohesive and coordinated.”

Cooper was joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kody Kinsley. He pointed out that on average, five North Carolinians die per day from a firearm-related injuries, and the suicide rate in 2021 was at the highest it's been in two decades.

The governor is using an executive order to create the program. It’s a recognition that Cooper will have difficulty getting the Republican-controlled legislature to pass the gun control measures he supports.

Cooper said Tuesday he's concerned by gun bills moving in the N.C. House and Senate. They include a repeal of the state's permit requirement to buy a handgun. He joined Attorney General Josh Stein, a fellow Democrat, in calling for universal background checks and "red flag laws" that would remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

"Legislation that I have seen right now goes the opposite way," Cooper said. "We’ll continue to fight that kind of legislation but also continue to encourage the General Assembly to take some positive steps."

Cooper says the Office of Violence Prevention will work on training programs, seek grant opportunities and bring state agencies together. It will be led by a soon-to-be-hired executive director and advised by a new Community Violence Advisory Board.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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