Wednesday News: Duck and cover


GUN DEATHS IN NORTH CAROLINA RISE ABRUPTLY IN 2016: North Carolina has reached a grim milestone: More people died from guns in 2016 than any of the previous 35 years, new federal data shows. In 2016, more than 1,400 people died from guns in North Carolina, according to the most recent data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The firearm death toll rose by 120 that year. Experts are not yet sure why the numbers are rising. But a jump in firearm-related homicides appears to have driven the increase. Homicides involving guns climbed to 558 in 2016 – a 27 percent increase over the previous year. Gun control advocates – including Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence – blame the state’s laws. In its scorecard of state gun laws, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives North Carolina a D-. “It’s incredibly troublesome, saddening and frustrating,” Ceartas says of the rising gun toll in North Carolina. “Because we know there are gun laws out there that have been proven to save lives … We do know it’s a public health crisis and it needs to be handled as one.”

GOP LAWMAKERS NOT SATISFIED WITH MERELY STEALING PIPELINE MITIGATION FUND: Cooper has come under fire from both the right and the left over the fund. Republican lawmakers have labeled it a "slush fund" because the governor controlled how the money would be spent, and environmental advocates suggested Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, two of the four utilities partnering on the pipeline, had paid the state off to get the permits approved. The pipeline will carry natural gas 600 miles from West Virginia to southeastern North Carolina. Cooper has said he wanted the fund to help pay for communities in eastern North Carolina to tap into the pipeline to attract industry to the area, as well as to pay for any needed environmental mitigation along the pipeline route. Lawmakers last month diverted the money in the fund to school districts in the eight counties through which the pipeline passes. Yet, they continue to poke at the administration over whether the fund was a quid pro quo for DEQ's approval of the permit.

DUANE HALL DOUBLES DOWN ON HIS ATTACKS AGAINST NC POLICY WATCH: A Democratic North Carolina legislator accused of sexual misconduct is accusing the group that first reported the allegations of violating rules for nonprofit organizations. Gov. Roy Cooper and other Democratic Party leaders last week called on state Rep. Duane Hall, a Raleigh attorney, to resign from his District 11 House seat amid allegations that he tried to kiss two women without their consent, and acted inappropriately toward another woman. The allegations were first detailed in a story published by NC Policy Watch, an organization that is part of the liberal advocacy group NC Justice Center. The Policy Watch story quoted five people, some of whom were anonymous. State Rep. Darren Jackson of Wake County, the House minority leader, on Tuesday reiterated his call for Hall to step down. “I’d hoped that Rep. Hall would resign and try to make some amends, and make some apologies and change some behavior, and instead it appears that he has decided to attack and take an offensive posture,” Jackson said. “That’s not the way I would handle it. I’ve stated for the record that I believe the women, I believe the complaints, and I think he should resign.”

TRUMP AND SESSIONS SUE CALIFORNIA OVER IMMIGRANT SANCTUARY LAWS: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is taking the fight over the nation's immigration policy directly to California by suing to block state laws that extend protections to people living in the U.S. illegally. He is expected to speak to law enforcement officials in the state's capital Wednesday, just hours after the U.S. Justice Department filed suit — the most aggressive move yet in the Trump administration's push to force so-called sanctuary cities and states to cooperate with immigration authorities. The U.S. Justice Department is challenging three California laws that, among other things, bar police from asking people about their citizenship status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities. The suit filed in federal court in Sacramento says the laws are unconstitutional and have kept federal agents from doing their jobs.

COMMUNITY FORUM WILL DISCUSS SHERIFF'S INTENT TO RESTART CONTROVERSIAL 287(G) PROGRAM: Leaders, activists and Alamance County residents are asked to gather to discuss the pending plans for Sheriff Terry Johnson to bring back the 287(g) program. The community forum will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at the Kernodle Senior Activities Center, 1535 S. Mebane St., Burlington. It will be hosted by a coalition of community organizations and individuals: Down Home North Carolina: Alamance Chapter, Alamance NAACP, Latinos Unidos Promoviendo la Esperanza, Fairness Alamance, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Alamance Peace Action and Siembra. The 287(g) program, a federal partnership initiative, allows a state or local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under a join Memorandum of Agreement to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.