By Associated Press - Wednesday, May 23, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Democratic legislative candidates plan to make school safety a fall campaign issue if Republicans won’t consider legislation that includes gun-control provisions backed by the Democratic governor.

Rep. Graig Meyer of Orange County, a candidate recruiter for House Democrats, sounded that warning at a news conference Wednesday in which several House and Senate Democrats promoted legislation nearly mirroring Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposals.

Cooper and other Democrats want to raise the age to purchase assault-style rifles from 18 to 21 and ban “bump stocks,” which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire. They also want judges to be able to order people considered physical threats to themselves or others to surrender weapons temporarily.

“We are serious about doing this for the state of North Carolina,” Meyer said. “We would love to do it in a bipartisan way. If it can’t be done that way, we will work on having the control to be able to do this in next year’s session.”

Democrats would need 16 House seats or 11 Senate seats in November to gain control of each chamber, something they haven’t had since 2010.

Meyer said other states have approved similar restrictions, including Florida, where a teenager with an AR-15 was charged in a February school shooting that left 17 dead. Ten died in another school shooting last week in Santa Fe, Texas.

“We must act to make sure that our schools are safer and that our kids are healthier,” said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat.

Legislative Republicans have avoided gun restrictions, focusing instead during a House school safety committee on improving building safety and hiring more school psychologists, social workers and nurses and campus-based police officers. The Democrats’ bill contains $40 million for the additional school support personnel and $10 million more for the resource officers.

Recommendations from the House committee didn’t provide dollar amounts to hire additional school support staff but suggested $1.8 million more for police officers.

Legislative Republicans planned to hold a news conference Thursday to announce the funding numbers for school safety anticipated in the budget adjustments for the coming year.

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