RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said it’s right for the Division of Motor Vehicles to stop producing specialty license plates affixed with the Confederate battle flag. But McCrory insists the General Assembly must change the law before his administration can act.
McCrory told reporters Wednesday he believes state law requires the DMV to issue the plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans with the flag emblem. A 1990s court ruling found the group qualified for a plate. McCrory’s spokesman said Tuesday that the governor wanted the legislature to pass a law to discontinue the flag’s use.
McCrory said that if he believed he had the authority, he would make the change right away in response to the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the content on a license plate.
But “there’s a clear statute which does not give me that authority,” McCrory said.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said later Wednesday he believes McCrory’s administration already has power to address the issue.
“We think that there is some level of executive, administrative discretion involved in the issuance of those plates and what goes on those plates,” Berger said.
North Carolina has more than 2,000 active Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty license plates with the group’s logo, which features the Confederate battle flag.
The North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans declined to comment Wednesday, saying by email it was time now to “show respect and remembrance” for those killed in Charleston.
McCrory said it’s appropriate for another kind of Confederate flag be raised over the old Capitol occasionally to commemorate historic events.
The flag used by the Confederate government — a circle of white stars on a blue field with red and white stripes — has flown over the Capitol dome, often on Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday, said Keith Hardison, director of the state’s historic sites. It’s usually been done at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or United Daughters of the Confederacy, Hardison said.
Online photos show the white male suspect in the South Carolina shootings posing with the battle flag.
“We’re walking a fine line by preserving our history but also recognizing that the display on a license plate of the Confederate battle flag draws comparisons to issues that I don’t think are productive to our country or to this state,” McCrory said.