Cities and counties in North Carolina have been trying to evade the changes wrought by the General Assembly since it passed HB 650. Particularly, they are bent out of shape over not being allowed to prohibit concealed carry by legal concealed carry permit holders in parks with the exception of clearly defined recreational facilities. Those include specifically “a playground, an athletic field, a swimming pool, and an athletic facility.”
Now the debate has come to the Town of Waynesville or, to paraphrase SayUncle, The Town (My The Town).
Town leaders including Mayor Gavin Brown and Town Manager Lee Galloway are working to amend Waynesville’s ordinance that prohibits concealed carry in all parks to one that would only ban it in recreational facilities.
The law passed last year prevents concealed guns from being carried in recreational and athletic facilities and schools. And, under the law, weapons are legally allowed in some formerly prohibited places such as bars and state parks. While the state tried to be specific where guns are banned, however, the verbiage is ambiguous in some respects.
“There are a lot of questions in our mind, ‘what is an athletic facility? Is a dog park an athletic facility?’” said Town Manager Lee Galloway during a meeting with town leaders earlier this month.
The town’s recreation center on Vance Street and the nearby baseball and soccer fields could be classified as athletic facilities and still ban weapons. The dog park, which is completely surrounded by athletic facilities, would also remain gun free.
With all due respect to Lee Galloway whom I’ve known well and liked for many a year, I don’t think a dog park was exactly what the General Assembly meant by a “recreational facility” nor do I think “greenways” were included as the title of the article suggests.
The article by reporter Caitlin Bowling of the Smoky Mountain News (a free paper) contains many errors including saying that HB 650 allowed firearms in bars and that the law “prevents concealed guns from being carried in recreational and athletic facilities and schools.” Concealed carry in eating establishments and restaurants (HB 111) has passed the State House but still not the State Senate. Moreover, HB 650 allows but does not mandate that concealed carry be prohibited in recreational facilities. As to schools, it was never on the agenda.
The Town Attorney has been instructed by the Mayor “to draft an ordinance even though a likely court battle over the legislation would leave a final outcome up in the air.” The court battle referred to seems to be an anticipated challenge by cities and counties to Section 21 of HB 650. Given that North Carolina state law preempts cities and counties from enacting their own firearms regulations, I don’t think it will go far.
The most telling point of the debate comes from Police Chief Bill Hollingshed when asked if there had been any problems with those Concealed Handgun Permits.
Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said he could not find incidents involving a permitted carrier using a gun at a sporting event or in a park.
“I can’t say that we have a big problem with this; we can’t find any city in the state that has a problem with this,” Hollingsed said.
The people that the town and police need to be concerned about are those who do not have permits but carry a weapon anyway, the town board agreed. The law will not prevent that individual from committing a crime.
“You worry about the people who are going to carry a concealed weapon no matter what the law is,” Hollingsed said.
I think Chief Hollingshed has the correct perspective on the matter. Moreover, given that there have been no problems with those of us with Concealed Handgun Permits, I think the Town of Waynesville Aldermen would do well to do like the City of Hickory and not put any additional restrictions in place.