Suggestions made to Dare commissioners about gun violence

Published 3:29 pm Monday, June 13, 2022

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Gun violence weighed heavily on the minds and hearts of Dare commissioners and citizens Monday, June 6, 2022.

Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard during his opening remarks lamented “what is happening to our country? I don’t understand it. I don’t get it.”

He said “I pray to the Lord every single day.” And to citizens in the room and watching online he pleaded, “I implore you to pray for our country.”

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He called for a moment of silence.

Then six people came forward during public comment. All addressed gun violence.

One who wasn’t on the sign-up list, Arline Arnold, stood and said she’s a grandmother who lost a grandchild at Sandy Hook. She said the child was killed by an AR-15, her body mutilated.

“This can happen here. We are not safe, period.”

Gaye Morris had a different experience.

“I grew up in a household where domestic violence included being threatened with guns by my father when he was drunk.”

She shared: “I don’t speak about that part of my childhood much, but my mother and I outlived my father, and I consider us survivors of someone who wielded power over us with his weapons.

“How many families in Dare County are right now living the same kind of nightmare?”

She suggested actions the commissioners could take. “Name gun violence as a public health concern. Actually, it is a public health emergency.”

She praised the county’s work during the pandemic. “The county worked diligently to protect its citizens during the pandemic. Can it work just as hard to prevent the public health crisis of gun violence?”

She suggested three specific things:

– Raise public awareness through a campaign for firearm safety practices, including safe storage of firearms especially in homes with children.

– Initiate a gun violence prevention initiative through local law enforcement, mental health and social workers to prevent armed domestic violence, homicide and suicide by firearms.

– Commission a summit of community partners to make sure up-to-date data about the nature and extent of gun violence in Dare County is available.

Morris’ last suggestion mirrored one made by Wayne Barry, who led off public comment.

Barry proposed that the board form “a commission of up to 20 residents entrusted with studying the issues surrounding the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our country, and the threat that such proliferation presents to our community.”

Spotswood Graves was the first to bring up the board’s unanimously-passed February 2020 resolution. That resolution supported the U.S. Constitution with particular emphasis on the second amendment.

The resolution resolved that the Dare County Board of Commissioners opposes “any and all attempts to infringe upon these rights and freedoms, including the right to keep and bear arms, as defined in the Second Amendment.”

Graves asked the commissioners: “Do you mean to oppose any change?”

On the Monday morning of the meeting, David Morris took his seven-year old great-grandson to the bus stop for Manteo Elementary. He was worried.

He told the commissioners that the leading cause of death for children and teens is gun violence.

The same information was repeated in Gov. Roy Cooper’s Proclamation declaring June 3, 2022 Gun Violence Awareness Day.

That proclamation also states that “practicing safe gun storage protects children, prevents accidents and reduces gun thefts.”

In her conclusion, Morris said “If you don’t see this as a problem here, then let’s all work together to keep it that way. Your decision to act will impact the lives of our children and families.”