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Phelps: He's no gun-grabber

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Democratic state Senate candidate D. Cole Phelps said last week that contrary to state Republicans’ false characterization of him, he supports the Second Amendment and doesn’t want to take people’s guns away.

Phelps, who was in Elizabeth City Thursday to speak at the closing program for the Trio Upward Bound program at Elizabeth City State University, said in an interview afterward that state GOP leaders have tried to pigeonhole him as a “gun grabber” who wants to confiscate guns.

But nothing could be further from the truth, he said. Phelps noted he comes from Creswell in rural Washington County, where guns and deer hunting are a regular part of life.

“I support the Second Amendment,” Phelps said. “I would oppose any law that tries to prevent law-abiding citizens to own guns for lawful purposes. Do not let anyone mislead you to think otherwise.”

Phelps and Republican Bob Steinburg of Edenton, who currently serves in the N.C. House of Representatives, are squaring off in November’s general election for the 1st District seat in the N.C. Senate.

Steinburg, reached on Saturday, questioned Phelps’ support for gun rights, citing a YouTube video of a Democratic Party candidate forum in Dare County this past spring. In the video, Phelps states he threw his National Rifle Association paperwork in the trash rather than seek an NRA endorsement.

“If that’s the actions of someone who supports the Second Amendment, that’s a surprise to me and would be to almost all law-abiding Second Amendment supporters,” Steinburg said. “Cole Phelps obviously does not support the Second Amendment as written.”

Steinburg cited his endorsement by the NRA in previous elections and said he expects to have the gun rights group’s endorsement in this fall’s election.

“I am a member and proud supporter of the NRA,” Steinburg said.

Phelps said he, too, is a supporter of gun rights.

“My whole family owns guns,” Phelps said. “I believe people have a right to hunt and I believe people have a right to protect their homes. I support all of that.”

The one issue related to guns Phelps thinks deserves a closer look is the acquisition of guns by people with a mental illness.

“I do believe that we need to study the mental health issue to avoid tragedies from happening in our region that has happened all across the nation,” Phelps said. “I cannot support the NRA if they would in any way obstruct us confronting the problem of easy access to guns by those with mental health issues.”

Steinburg said he believes there are sufficient laws already for dealing with mental illness and guns.

“There are a host of laws on the books, federal and state, that govern access to guns for citizens with mental impairments,” Steinburg said. “The state requires a petition to the courts with legal protocols to follow to establish gun rights restoration.”

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