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Last week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper broke with traditional notions of decorum and called out the state’s lieutenant governor for “dangerous” rhetoric about owning an AR-15. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who is Black, made the remarks in response to calls for gun control at the NRA Leadership Forum days after the horrific shooting in Uvalde, Texas. 

In the clip shared by Cooper, Robinson sounds like he’s gearing up for a real-life rendition of “The Purge.” Speaking to a crowd at the NRA Leadership Forum in Houston last week, Robinson made seemingly incentive remarks about why he needs his AR-15 style rifle. The gun is the weapon of choice of many mass shooters in part because of the damage done to victims. 

The plain language of the second amendment itself does not guarantee the rights of individual citizens to own guns for personal use. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted private gun ownership in various cases, but it is largely a more modern creation.

Now Robinson’s defenders insist he was reiterating the Second Amendment. But talking about needing to stay armed with a weapon of mass destruction isn’t quite the same as the well-armed militia the founders envisioned.

Also, Robinson feeds into the fallacy of NRA “leaders” potentially being on the opposite side and needing to fight against the U.S. government. These people are not ordinary citizens. According to the NRA’s own description of the event, this is a space for the top leaders across entertainment, media and government officials. 

Adding to the situation’s complexity between the two North Carolina leaders is their differing party affiliations. Cooper is a Democrat, and Robinson is a Republican.

While neither is up for re-election this year, North Carolina has a hotly contested Senate seat and other major offices like the State Supreme Court. According to Ballotpedia, North Carolina is one of 17 states that elect the governor and lieutenant separately. Five states do not have the position of lieutenant governor.

A Democrat elected at the top of the ballot and a Republican elected as the number two state official can happen with people crossing over and not voting straight down a party’s ticket. It can also occur with ballot “drop-off.” Voters may not feel compelled to vote for some seats or stop after they vote for the top ticket races like the governor or senate. 

Some people may think having a mixed party leadership could lead to balance. But there is no hope for compromise when there are such extreme differences and refusal to compromise on basics like public safety.  

In many states, including North Carolina, the lieutenant governor’s primary job is to preside over the state Senate. This can become important when the lieutenant governor has the power to stop harmful bills from moving forward. 

Voters should consider the reality of what is needed in their states and choose down-ballot candidates who will work to uphold the law in the best interest of all people, not advocating for an elite few to obstruct.

It’s also essential to look beyond the top ticket races in primaries and engPeople’ down-ballot candidates running statewValues’e lieutenant governors, attorneys general and secretaries of state.


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