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Municipalities grapple with new carry-concealed law

by Keith Barber

On Monday, Hanes Park in Winston- Salem’s West End Historic District displayed a weathered sign that stated, “No weapons or fireworks.” Under a new state law that went into effect Dec. 1, people with carry-concealed permits can now bring handguns into certain parts of the park. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

On Monday, the city of Winston-Salem was still awaiting the arrival of new signs to be posted at all city parks in compliance with a new law that allows concealed weapons in municipal parks.

Hanes Park in the city’s West End Historic District displayed a weathered sign at its West End Boulevard entrance that stated, “No weapons or fireworks.” However, under House Bill 650, a law that went into effect on Dec. 1, people with carry-concealed permits are now permitted to bring concealed weapons into municipal parks in North Carolina with the exception of swimming pools, playgrounds and athletic facilities. To inform the public of the change in the law, the city has ordered more than 300 signs at a cost of $7,600.

On Nov. 21, the Winston-Salem City Council approved a resolution that would expand the definition of “recreational facilities” to playgrounds, athletic fields, swimming pools, and spectator areas adjoining athletic facilities. The resolution also expands the definition of “athletic facility” to include any “building, structure or place including a walking trail, greenway and body of water such as a lake for engaging in sporting events, recreational activities, fitness or physical training.”

City Attorney Angela Carmon said she was directed by the city officials to draft an ordinance consistent with the House Bill 650 to define certain terms that were not clearly defined in the bill, such as “recreational facilities,” specifically city facilities that were frequented by children and those that held organized events for children.

“Those were the areas we focused on that within the definitions were exempted from the carry-concealed law,” Carmon said. “We looked at swimming pools, athletic facilities and playgrounds. When you look at those, one [definition] is crystal clear, the other two are open to interpretation.”

Co-sponsored by Reps. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba), Stephen LaRoque (R-Greene), George Cleveland (R-Onslow) and Kelly Hastings (R-Cleveland), House Bill 650 received some bipartisan support in both the NC House and the NC Senate. A number of Democrats, including state Sen. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford) voted in favor of the measure. Otherwise, the vote split along party lines.

Concealed weapons carried by permit holders are permitted in all city parks under the new law, Carmon added, but they are prohibited from recreational facilities. lowed in parks, an otherwise benign situation Greensboro Assistant City Manager Mi- could easily escalate out of control.

chael Speedling said the city has not passed Mayor Allen Joines characterized the NC a resolution similar to that of the Winston- General Assembly’s passage of House Bill Salem. All Greensboro city parks have signs 650 as “an intolerable action” that essentially posted that state that carrying concealed takes away local government authority over weapons in the park is prohibited, and that municipal parks. prohibition extends to all city property. High Councilman James Taylor agreed with Point City Attorney Joanne Carlyle said the Joines’s position during the Nov. 21 city city has taken no action with regard to the council meeting. new carry-concealed law. “This is not small government — this is Due to the wording of House Bill 650, the huge government,” Taylor said. “Now, [state new law could be interpreted to read that all legislators] are trying to usurp authority to municipal parks are open to handgun owners regulate concealed weapons in our public with carry-concealed permits. parks. That should be a job for those who “This is what we are elected on the local struggled with,” level.”

Carmon said. “If we A former juvenile hadn’t enacted an justice counselor, Tay- ordinance restrict lor said many people ing handguns in don’t understand recreational facili- the culture of young ties by Dec. 1, then people and how a lack once that date came of patience and un- and passed, they derstanding combined would’ve been with handguns can allowed in all our lead to deadly conse- parks.” quences.

Without the reso- Taylor said more lution, the new law than 2,000 citizens would have been too in Forsyth County ambiguous, Carmon have carry-concealed said. permits and he’s one of Councilman Dan them.

Besse said he sup- “I do believe in our ported the resolution 2 because it offered the city an opportunity to exercise a measure of regulation over how the new law would be implemented.

“If we hadn’t passed that then it would’ve been perfectly legal to walk into the middle of a playground with a concealed weapon,” Besse said. “If you want to see concealed weapons in our playgrounds, you should object to what city council did, because that’s what we don’t want. If you want guns in the monkey bars, on the soccer sidelines, or on the biking trails, then you won’t like what we did.”

Under the new ordinance, there are restrictions on handguns in 52 of the city’s 69 parks. “Passive parks” such as Corpening Plaza, Winston Square Park, and the green space adjacent to Crystal Towers apartments have no restrictions with regard to concealed handguns.

Winston-Salem police Chief Scott Cunningham said the new state law creates a challenge for law enforcement. Cunningham said his concern is that when guns are al- Amendment rights; I’m a gun enthusiast,” Taylor said. “I’m not opposed to citizens having guns, but bullets don’t have eyes and I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that we, as a city, encourage children to go play in our parks but we’re also allowing people to carry concealed weapons in the parks and I don’t agree with that.”

Besse said he also supports the 2nd Amendment, but there need to be “common sense rules” about where citizens can carry handguns.

“Most people would agree that you shouldn’t carry guns in bars, public buildings, parks and playgrounds,” Besse said.

“Nobody is immune to mistakes, missed shots or panicked overreactions.”

“If you get a gun on the edge of that playground and somebody starts an argument, some angry parent takes a swing at some other angry parent, and the second one has a pistol under their jacket, and they grapple for it, how many kids are going to get hurt?” he continued. “That’s just not right.”

‘I do believe in our 2 Amendment rights; I’m a gun enthusiast. I’m not opposed to citizens having guns, but bullets don’t have eyes and I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that we, as a city, encourage children to go play in our parks but we’re also allowing people to carry concealed weapons in the parks and I don’t agree with that.’

Councilman James Taylor

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