Reason to be cautious
Handgun owners who have concealed carry permits are finding more and more places where they are allowed to bring their guns, such as public parks and, if the owner approves, even into a bar.
You can debate the wisdom of those practices, but they are facts of life in North Carolina. The General Assembly changed state gun regulations in 2013, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed the changes into law. Local governments are adjusting accordingly.
Caution clearly is in order. Before Rowan County Commissioners jump on the bandwagon by allowing concealed carry guns in all county departments and offices, they should pay attention to the department heads who have expressed concerns about staff training and policies. As stewards of the county and its resources — including its employees — commissioners have a duty to weigh the risks and potential liabilities.
The Rowan County Planning Board voted 8-1 Monday to recommend commissioners allow handgun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their guns onto county property. And board members voted unanimously to oppose the two-year delay on implementation that department heads requested. The agency chiefs want time to train employees and draw up new policies; the Planning Board thought that was too much.
Allowing guns to be carried into county offices — by the public and by employees — is a big step. State law still prohibits guns in some situations, such as classrooms, dorms and administrative buildings on college campuses. Similarly, local government may want to ban guns from some agencies or situations where risk is especially high. Examples mentioned so far are when Social Services deals with abusive parents or when a department head has to fire an employee. Those are good reasons to be cautious.
The department heads may have gone overboard in requesting metal detectors at every agency, manned by deputies. But they were signalling their strong reservations as managers —as Planning Director Ed Muire put it, “[W]e want — in an overabundance of caution — to be prepared.” Good managers consider all the possibilities, including worst-case scenarios and unintended consequences. You can believe strongly in a principle — the right to bear arms — and still struggle to draw up wise policies to apply that principle.
It seems odd that commissioners would assign this subject to the planning board, which usually deals with zoning matters. But the county ordinance spelling out the board’s duties has one that covers it all: “Perform any other related duties that the board of commissioners may direct.” The planning board has studied this question and now passes it back to commissioners for the second time. Commissioners’ decision about how to implement the new laws has not gotten any simpler. Caution is the best course.