Pro-Firearms Group Threatens To Sue CH, Wants Compliance With State Law

CHAPEL HILL – A pro-firearms rights organization is threatening to sue the Town of Chapel Hill if laws regarding concealed weapons aren’t updated to comply with the State’s looser legislation passed last year.

In July of 2013, Governor Pat McCrory approved and signed House Bill 937 which limited the Town’s ability to prohibit people from carrying concealed handguns in Town owned buildings and the surrounding property, green ways, and recreational facilities, such as playgrounds, athletic fields, and swimming pools.

These changes, which counter the Town’s historical stance of restrictive legislation against concealed weapons, went into effect on October 1.

Town Staff spoke to the Council at Monday night’s meeting, presenting revised Town firearm regulations.

Andy Stevens of Grassroots North Carolina, a group which seeks to ensure that local municipalities adhere to the State’s new regulations, said that the Town’s revised statute was trying to “blanket” the fact that it will not be in compliance with State law.

Stevens said that the only time the Town can prohibit carrying concealed firearms on recreational fields is when the Town itself schedules the field for use.

“One of the reasons why we had to go to the legislature is because municipalities want to redefine words and make swimming pools into lakes and vice versa. The language is very specific, and your ordinance as written is not in compliance.  Should you move to enact that into law, then Grassroots North Carolina will find it necessary to file a lawsuit,” Stevens said.

On the opposite side of the debate, several community members shared their frustration over the State’s regulations with the Council.

Kaaren Haldeman, the North Carolina Chapter Leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, shared that one child is shot every 30 minutes in the United States.

“Review of the last 20 years of literature concludes that more guns in more places mean more gun injury and more gun death,” Haldeman said.

Councilwoman Maria Palmer, who made a motion to approve the revised statute, said the Council needed to find ways to apply the law as narrowly as possible.

“I am all in favor of saying that we will direct our citizens to enforce our ordinances that we have in place,” Palmer said. “If certain citizens want to sue us, they can sue us, but we are going to protect our children until we figure out what is the least we need to do.”

Councilwoman Sally Greene said the Town’s regulations have not come into compliance and cautioned against acting prematurely.

“We really need to get a better handle of the legal parameters of what we can do here,” Greene said. “I would be hesitant to pass this resolution until we know more about what we will actually be doing.”

The council decided to delay a vote and asked Town Staff to review the compliance questions that were raised in the context of making the guns laws as narrow as legally possible.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who participates in Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said the Council will provide ample notice to the community of when the item will appear again.

“If you accept my reasoning for delay, it is so we can make this stronger, and so that we can make sure that there is as narrow as possible application of this State statute. This is a community that has been struggling to enact reasonable gun regulations for decades,” Kleinschmidt said.

Another option Councilman Lee Storrow suggested was “creative signage” that could relay the community’s expectations on firearms while still reflecting the change in North Carolina Law.

Carrboro Prints Signs For Bars Banning Concealed Weapons

CARRBORO – Carrboro local leaders and residents are taking steps to counteract the state’s new regulations allowing people with permits to carry concealed handguns where alcohol is served. As part of the new legislation, guns would also be allowed on playgrounds, greenways, and other public recreation areas.

If a business owner posts a sign forbidding concealed weapons, and a person violates that, it’s a class-one misdemeanor.

“Even accidentally causing harm to a patron in your business, it just makes the most basic common sense to me that you wouldn’t want someone carrying a weapon in your establishment,” said Mickey Maloney, co-owner of the Carrboro wine bar, Glasshalffull.

Annette Stone, Carrboro’s Community and Economic Development Director, said that so far, about 35 signs have been printed for businesses to use, stating that concealed weapons are forbidden within their establishments.

“Terry Buckner has been very kind to step up and say she would help with the distribution of letters and the town-purchased the signs, so that is the way we are going about it,” Stone said.

At a recent Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, members, including Damon Seils, voiced their approval of the initiative.

Maloney said whether he decides to use his own sign or one provided by the Town, he said it is a good idea not to mix alcohol and weapons.

“As far as I’m concerned, we will definitely put some sort of notification on the door of our business that we request people not bring any sort of weapon into our establishment,” Maloney said.

Attorney Michael Brough explained to the Board of Aldermen last week the impact that the state’s new regulations would have on Town laws.

“They removed the authority to prevent the carrying of concealed handguns on designated playgrounds. I can’t quite figure that one out, but that is what they’ve done,” Brough said.

Under the new legislation, the Town’s authority to prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns on designated playgrounds was rescinded.

In addition, the Town can still prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns on designated athletic fields, but only during scheduled, organized athletic events.

“They have to be specifically spelled out as they are in the ordinance to be adopted, but only in scheduled, organized events. So if it’s just an ad hoc gathering of soccer players, you can’t prohibit it,” Brough said. “How you go about enforcing it, I have no idea, so I don’t know what the point of that is.”

The measure will also allow concealed-carry permit holders to store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university.

It is illegal to consume alcohol when carrying a firearm, and a person must be 21 to buy a gun in North Carolina.