A City Council That Gets It

The Gastonia (NC) City Council voted Tuesday evening to allow concealed carry in all areas of that city’s parks. The vote was 6-1 and came despite a recommendation from the Gastonia Recreation Advisory Commission to impose a ban on concealed carry in athletic facilities.

The city’s 6-1 vote, with only Councilman Dave Kirlin opposing, went against a 5-0 recommendation of the Gastonia Recreation Advisory Commission. The commission wanted to allow licensed, concealed weapons in public parks, but to continue to ban them in the more specific recreational areas.

But Councilman Jim Gallagher was one of the six who favored a hands-off approach from government control. People with concealed weapon permits have proven themselves trustworthy and responsible, and imposing any restriction on them is unfair and unnecessary, he said.

“This is a slippery slope and it’s just going to go downhill,” Gallagher said of potential restrictions. “The second amendment is clear. Our founding fathers wanted us to protect ourselves.”

This is a City Council that gets it and one whose move to allow their citizens to protect themselves should be applauded. This statement by Councilwoman Brenda Craig who holds a NC Concealed Handgun Permit herself shows it.

“I agree with the second amendment, bottom line,” she said. “If people have been trained to handle that weapon and have their permit, they’re responsible.”

That is the key – CHP holders have been vetted, are responsible, and not the one’s you have to worry about. I just wish more city councils in North Carolina would realize that.

H/T Harvey

And In Local News…

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.

Raleigh – Just Like Any Other North Carolina City But Better

The City of Raleigh wants to be treated differently than any other city in the state when it comes to following the state law that now allows concealed carry in municipal and county parks. While they have passed an ordinance that puts them in conformance with state law on this issue, the City Council in its arrogance has instructed the City Attorney to work to get them exempted from it.

The Raleigh City Council today adopted an ordinance that members hope will be short lived. The vote brings the City Code into compliance with North Carolina State Enabling Laws.

The newly adopted State law that went into effect Dec. 1, allows the carrying of concealed weapons essentially everywhere, with the exceptions of some City-owned parks and recreational facilities. The City Council has asked the City Attorney’s Office to pursue an exemption for Raleigh during the General Assembly’s short session.“While the City Council will comply with the new law, the Council members unanimously believe it is bad policy and are seeking to change the law at the first opportunity,” said City Attorney Thomas McCormick.

It states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to openly carry or possess on or about his person any deadly weapon including but not limited to any: bowie knife, dirk, dagger, sling-shot, loaded cane, metal knuckles, razor, stun gun, pistol, revolver, gun, rifle, or nightstick at any meeting, assemblage, or parade on any property, street, alley or other public way, park or greenway. It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or carry a legally permitted concealed handgun on or at any City-owned playground, athletic field, swimming pool, or athletic facility as defined in G.S. 14-415.23”

While the City of Raleigh played it fairly straight on their ordinance unlike the City of Winston-Salem, it is the height of arrogance to expect that they will be exempted from a law that applies to every other city and county in the state of North Carolina. I fully expect the North Carolina General Assembly to tell Raleigh they can just forget it. Or since Wake County has seen such a large in-migration of people from certain Northeastern states, to fuhgeddaboudit.

H/T Jonathan

Kudos To The Hickory (NC) City Council

Last night the Hickory City Council was presented with two proposals regarding concealed carry in its parks. From the official agenda:

Ordinance Amending Hickory City Code Chapter 21, Section 21-13, “Use of
Weapons” Regarding Firearms in City Parks (Exhibit XIII.A.1.)

A new state law passed in the last General Assembly Session will require the
City of Hickory to amend its ordinance which bans firearms in city parks. Session
Law 2011-268, which became effective December 1, 2011, amends Article 14,
Chapter 14 of the General Statutes which pertains to various laws regarding the
right to own, possess, or carry a firearm in North Carolina. Staff presented two
concealed handgun permit ordinance options to the Parks and Recreation
Commission at their November 8, 2011 meeting. The first ordinance, which Staff
recommended to be endorsed by the Parks and Recreation Commission,
prohibits concealed handguns in certain specified park areas.
The second
ordinance simply complies with state law and allows concealed handguns in all
park areas. Six (6) Commission Members voted to endorse and recommend to
City Council the first ordinance option. Four (4) Commission Members voted to
endorse and recommend to City Council, the second ordinance option. Staff
recommends approval of the local ordinance which prohibits concealed
handguns in certain park areas.

While normally city councils give great weight to the recommendations of their staff and usually go along with them, last night the Hickory City Council listened to its constituents and voted for the second ordinance which simply complies with state law and allows concealed handguns in all park areas. They approved concealed carry in parks by a 6-1 vote.

According to reports in the Hickory Record, the overwhelming consensus of those who spoke on the ordinances last night was in favor of unrestricted concealed carry. When asked by Mayor Rudy Wright for a show of hands, 40 people were in favor of unrestricted concealed carry while only 2 in the audience were in favor of restrictions.

Council member Jill Patton “personally opposes firearms. I don’t like what concealed carry says about our society.” But Patton said she respects the wishes of her constituents, and a clear majority of responses she had about Tuesday’s public hearing favored no restrictions on concealed carry permittees.

Hank Guess, a council member who once was a conceal carry permit instructor, said the statistics cited by proponents for Option Two are valid. Council member Sally Fox said she is opposed to firearms in city parks and Hickory does not have a big problem with crime in the parks.

“I feel no safer if someone else is carrying a gun,” she said. Fox was the lone dissenting vote in the motion to conform Hickory’s firearms ordinance with the state law on parks.

It is good to see council members who are personally opposed to firearms like Jill Patton actually listen to their constituents. As I said in the headline, kudos to the Hickory City Council. Hopefully more North Carolina cities will look to the example of Hickory than to that of Winston-Salem or Asheville.

North Carolina Cities Are Deliberately Ignoring The Letter And Spirit Of The Law

When the new omnibus gun laws went into effect on December 1st, one of the major changes was a provision that allowed concealed handgun permit holders to carry concealed in state, county, and municipal parks. An exception was made to allow cities and counties to continue to forbid concealed carry in recreational facilities which the statute defined as “includes only the following: a playground, an athletic field, a swimming pool, and an athletic facility.” The amendment with this weakening provision was proposed by Rep. David Guice (R-Brevard).

Many cities throughout North Carolina have chosen to amend their ordinances which previously had prohibited all firearms in city parks so as to continue to ban firearms in recreational facilities. Those that have not made changes will, for now, allow concealed carry in all parks and all facilities within the park.

Some cities have stayed close to the meaning of the law if they made changes and just as many have not. Probably the most egregious misreading of the law is in the city of Winston-Salem where they defined an athletic facility to include greenways, lakes, and walking trails. According to published reports, City Attorney Angela Carmon “said in public meetings that the state law did not define “athletic facilities.” The resolution approving the ordinance change is explicit in saying that they are defining the law as they saw fit.

Closer to me, the City of Asheville amended their ordinance on November 22nd as part of their consent agenda. While not going as far as Winston-Salem, it is obvious from staff reports that they made it as strict as possible.

This action complies with the City Council Strategic Operating Plan for Asheville to be safe and secure

• Continues, to the fullest extent allowed by law, the prohibition of concealed
handguns on City property.

• Potential difficulty in enforcement.

 Asheville defines recreational facilities to include:

Recreational Facility means a playground, athletic field, swimming pool, or other recreation or athletic facility, owned or operated by the City of Asheville, together with any appurtenant premises including, but not limited to, locker rooms, seating areas, concession areas, enclosed areas, parking areas.

I think adding parking areas to the list of recreational facilities is somewhat problematic and could go beyond what is meant by the law. Nonetheless, state law does allow a concealed carry holder to leave their firearm in a locked car or locked area within the car.

Grass Roots North Carolina which was one of the prime movers behind getting carry in parks is not happy with how municipalities are trying to bend the law. An alert sent out tonight says they will be initiating legal action and are seeking plaintiffs in the cities of Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Greenville, and Smithfield. They will be adding more cities to that list as needed.

Of course, the gun prohibitionists at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (sic) are pushing cities to go even further in their defiance of state law. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times:

They have been under criticism from North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, which is urging local governments to ban concealed handguns at athletic facilities, a move Asheville has made already.

“You’ve got a lot of intensity (at these events), a lot of emotion and anger, and one or more people are carrying a concealed weapon,” Roxane Kolar, the group’s executive director, said Monday. “That’s just a bad recipe.”

Asheville, and at least 19 other local governments, already have responded by passing laws banning concealed handguns at athletic fields, playgrounds and recreation areas, such as swimming pools.

I predict that cities that have played by the rules and are conservative in how they define recreational facilities will be OK and those cities like Winston-Salem who have played fast and loose with state law will be slapped down. In the end, the taxpayers of those cities will be the ones footing the bill and, in the meantime, they will be ones who will be left to the mercy of criminals. The other prediction I will make is that the blood won’t be running in the parks other than for skinned knees and assorted athletic injuries.