NC gun-rights group sues Winston-Salem over policy

  • Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 1:07 a.m.

WINSTON-SALEM (AP) — A statewide gun-rights group claims in a lawsuit that the Second Amendment rights of gun owners are being violated through a Winston Salem ordinance banning concealed handguns in many city parks.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Rights Watch International filed the lawsuit Jan. 8 in Forsyth County Superior Court on behalf of three Winston-Salem residents and a High Point resident who works in Winston-Salem.

“Disregarding (state law) and the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, the Defendants have illegally imposed restrictions on a citizen’s right to possess or carry a concealed handgun in city parks, lakes, greenways and other property in excess of the authority delegated to the defendants” by the N.C. General Assembly, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the ordinance adopted by the Winston-Salem City Council in November 2011 is illegal under state law and is too vague, resulting in confusion among Winston-Salem residents.

The city council amended its ordinance after the Legislature passed a law allowing concealed handguns in parks. The state law made an exemption for local governments to limit concealed handguns in parks with athletic fields, athletic facilities, playgrounds and swimming pools. Winston Salem officials changed their ordinance to prohibit concealed handguns in parks fitting those criteria. In parks that don’t include those four things, people may carry a concealed handgun.

Named as defendants are the city, the city’s recreation and parks department, Mayor Allen Joines and city’s recreation and parks director Tim Grant. Joines wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.

City Attorney Angela Carmon told the newspaper Monday that state legislators left it up to local governments to define athletic fields, athletic facilities, playgrounds and swimming pools. The ordinance does that, Carmon said.

But the lawsuit said the plaintiffs have had to limit their visits to the city’s parks because city officials haven’t made it clear where concealed weapons are prohibited and where they are not.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against enforcing the ordinance and an order that city officials not implement any other ordinance or law that prohibits the possession or carrying of firearms in excess of what’s defined by state law.

The suit also asks a judge to order the city to remove signs and to not post signs prohibiting concealed or non-concealed handguns at any city facility where those signs exceed the city’s authority granted by the General Assembly and/or are in violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

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