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Thomas: Gun reform, 'personal,' urgently needed

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, August 9, 2019

Democratic Congressional candidate Allen Thomas is calling for “common-sense” gun control measures, including stricter background checks and more restrictions — but not an outright ban — on assault-style weapons.

Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville, is running in the Sept. 10 special election for the 3rd Congressional District. He’s opposed by Republican state House Rep. Greg Murphy, a fellow Pitt County resident, and two third-party candidates.

A Murphy campaign spokesman did not return several requests for comment for this story. However, Murphy’s campaign website states he sees “no reason to place further burdens on law-abiding citizens to purchase and own firearms,” arguing the “basic facts” are that more restrictive laws on guns will not deter criminals from getting them.

The Daily Advance reached out to both Thomas and Murphy following the recent mass shootings that, combined, killed more than 30 people in two states.

The killings prompted Gov. Roy Cooper to call for renewed debate about gun control in North Carolina, including consideration of bills creating a “red flag law” intended to cut off dangerous persons’ access to guns and that would impose a slew of new restrictions on guns, particularly assault-style weapons.

Thomas said gun control is a “personal” issue for him, because he was mayor of Greenville when a mass shooting happened. On June 21, 2013, a gunman attacked people near a Walmart, injuring four before officers shot the man; he survived and is currently serving a prison sentence.

As mayor at the time, Thomas said the attack still haunts him, and he believes the nation can and must act to prevent mass shootings.

“I’m a strong believer in prayer, but thoughts and prayers only take you so far without action,” he said, adding the rate of mass shootings today is “unheard of in our youth.” According to published reports, there have been more than 250 mass shootings in 2019, which averages out to a little more than one a day.

Thomas said he supports stricter background checks to prevent dangerous or mentally ill people from getting guns, and higher accountability for firearm ownership.

Thomas elaborated he opposes a ban on assault weapons, which he said is a very broad term, but wants to require higher levels of permitting depending on the power of a weapon. Assault rifles often fire much more powerful bullets than handguns.

Thomas also said he wants better sharing of information to improve background checks, better tracking of firearms and more accountability for manufacturers, and to encourage the public to more readily report when someone seems potentially dangerous.

Thomas said he believes there is “no magical solution” to preventing gun violence. If he’s elected to Congress, he said he would support “any commonality where we can get a majority” for gun reform measures.

Since last weekend’s shootings, some Congressional Republicans have suggested a willingness to consider some gun control measures, such as red flag laws.