Battle brewing over gun laws
RALEIGH (AP) ó A fight is brewing in cities across North Carolina over where holders of concealed weapons permits can bring their guns when visiting local parks, and both sides say the matter is destined for a showdown in court.
When the General Assembly passed a law this year that prohibited municipalities from banning concealed weapons in local parks, it swept away dozens of local regulations starting this month. But the law also included a provision that lets cities ban concealed weapons from ěrecreation facilities,î defined in the legislation as ěa playground, an athletic field, a swimming pool and an athletic facility.î
So far, about 20 cities and towns across the state have either approved or discussed ordinances that aim to do just that, according to advocates on both sides of the question. In theory, those cities are well within their rights to ban guns in those ěrecreation facilities,î but as so often happens with legislation, itís not so simple.
Grass Roots North Carolina, a gun rights advocacy group, says many cities are overstepping their bounds by interpreting the legal definitions as broadly as possible so that, for example, an entire park could be declared a ěrecreation facility,î or a lake could be redefined as a swimming pool.
At least one city wants to avoid that entirely: Raleigh officials plan to ask the General Assembly for an exemption from the law next year.
ěMany of these municipalities for what appear to be ideological reasons are taking ridiculously expansive definitions of what constitutes a recreational facility,î said Paul Valone, Grass Roots North Carolinaís president. ěTheyíre torturing the definition of recreational facility in order to ban handguns in as many places as possible.î
Thatís not the case, according to Roxane Kolar, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, a group thatís been encouraging cities to pass such ordinances.
ěSome of this is that the law is unclear, but every city weíve seen pass these ordinances, we believe, has followed the letter of the law,î she said.
Valoneís objection to the provision is not just practical, but philosophical: He doesnít think there should be any exemptions from the state law blocking cities from banning guns in parks. He argues that it reflects inaccurate attitudes about the people who obtain weapons to carry concealed weapons.
ěWe donít feel that a municipality should ban concealed handguns anywhere in parks,î he said. ěWe feel they should simply repeal them, period, end of story.î
For Kolar, who describes her group as moderate on gun control, the issue also boils down to philosophy.
ěWe just donít think thereís any need for guns on a playground,î she said.
What both do agree on is that the matter is headed to court. Valone said his group is recruiting plaintiffs for potential litigation, and Kolar said the language of the legislation is too vague to stand as it is.
ěI think this piece of this law will have to go to court,î she said.