City weighs weapons issue

Published 1:05 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, instructed city staff to draft a proposed ordinance that would bring the city’s ordinance regarding where people permitted to carry concealed weapons may carry those weapons, particularly at recreational facilities, in line with recent changes to state law.

Once that proposed ordinance is prepared, the city will hold a public hearing on it. That hearing is about two months away.

Earlier this year, the N.C. General Assembly approved House Bill 650, which modified a local government’s ability to prescribe areas where people can and cannot carry concealed weapons on public property.

“Let me say that the recommendation you have before you is only a recommendation for current city code to fall in line with new state law,” City Manager Josh Kay told the council. “It is not for us to expand our authority. It is not for us to get involved anymore than what we already are. We are trying to do – what staff is trying to do, is bring our code in line with state law.”

Kay told the council the change in state law requires the city – when posting notices banning concealed weapons – to be more specific in delineating where people with concealed weapons permits can or cannot carry weapons.

“What it comes down to is no longer … just having a park (posted) and be done with it. You really need to be real specific as to where these notices need to be placed,” Kay said. “You need to be specific in the city code as to where we are prohibiting concealed weapons.”

Mayor Archie Jennings then joined the discussion.

“Let me see if I understand. This is primarily, as per the summary by the chief (WPD Chief Mick Reed), has to do with posting regarding concealed weapons,” Jennings said.

“Yes, sir,” replied Kay.

“It doesn’t have any broad implications as to whether you can carry a weapon legally or not. It’s just for posting. Is that fair to say?” Jennings said.

Kay explained that currently a sign at the Susiegrey Moore McConnell Sports Complex warns people that concealed weapons are not allowed at the complex. Under the new law, that’s not specific enough, Kay said.

“You must identify that the fields, the stands, the parking lot, the sideline areas, the concessions are involved in that. Any other spaces in that complex, the citizens are allowed to have a concealed weapon,” Kay said.

“If they’ve got a permit,” the mayor said.

“That right, if they’re licensed,” Kay replied.

Washington resident Barry Gutfeld voiced his concern over the proposed ordinance to be drafted by city staff. Gutfeld said criminals don’t abide by laws and won’t pay attention to signs prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons at specific places, including parks and recreational facilities. Gutfeld said the proposed ordinance is a step toward further eroding law-abiding citizens’ gun rights.

“Law-abiding gun owners are not the source of the gun problem,” he said. “Criminal possession should be, and already is, controlled. Lawfully possessed firearms should not be restricted anymore than they already are.”

Gutfeld urged the council to carefully consider the issue.

“More time is needed to determine if this proposed amendment is going to restrict criminal behavior or is it just going to affect law-abiding gun owners,” Gutfeld said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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