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BOCC Defeats Proposed Concealed Carry Restrictions

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With all the hoopla surrounding the surprise termination of County Manager Harry Jones at last night’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, there was another victory for grassroots conservatives perhaps lost in the shuffle.

In February, the County Parks and Recreation department submitted a proposal to the Board that would place restrictions on the ability of concealed carry permit holders to carry their firearm in county parks.

What began as a simple staff request was turned into a multi-meeting agenda item.

The proposed restrictions were allowed under GS 14-415.23, the same legislation that opened up the ability for concealed carry permit holders to carry in parks in the first place.  The legislation allowed, but didn’t mandate, local governments to enact their own restrictions.

The Parks and Recreation Department sought to make full use of the allowed restrictions.

At the March 19th meeting, Commissioner Ridenhour made what he called “a tactical decision to request that the parks concealed carry restriction be deferred to the next regularly scheduled board meeting, and that it be made a regular agenda item, not a consent item.”

That passed.

At the April 2 meeting, five citizen speakers in opposition to the ordinance addressed the commissioners.  During the course of discussion, both Commissioners Ridenhour and Bentley proposed amendments that would respectively limit or erase the proposed restrictions.

County attorney Marvin Bethune was instructed to write several versions, utilizing Ridenhour’s and Bentley’s suggestions, that could be voted on during the May 7 meeting.

At the May 7 meeting, delayed for hours by the issue of Harry Jones termination, the proponents of the Ridenhour compromise still had nearly 20 supporters in the audience.

The Charlotte Tea Party (CAUTION), Grass Roots North Carolina, and the Mecklenburg County Young Republicans had all put out calls for supporters to attend and speak in opposition to carry restrictions.

When Commissioner Bentley had the floor to describe her proposal, she asked to make a motion, but commented jokingly, “I know how it’s going to end up”, assuming it would not pass.

She then commented on the ordinance.

“We’ve had the discussion about the quality of people that have concealed carry permits, about 19,000 in Mecklenburg or so, me being one.  I know what we have to go through to get a permit.  I am very confident that the people that are carrying a concealed weapon have gone through quite a bit of rigor to have that freedom.  My view is that there is no data to convince me that allowing people who have gone through the process of getting a concealed carry permit are a potential harm to anyone in the community.  Quite the contrary.

My view is also that the state legislators that we have elected saw fit to make a change in state law. They were gracious I guess to give counties the option to amend that, but my view is that in this case we should be consistent with state law. If its good enough for state legislators, I think it should be good enough for us as commissioners.

My motion would be to adopt Commissioner Bentley’s version before you.”

This is when the truly unexpected happened.

Commissioner Dumont Clarke, who had been supportive of the Parks and Recreation ordinance as submitted, offered to second Commissioner Bentley’s motion and proceeded to speak on the matter.

“The train has left the station and the staff proposal has no support…or insufficient support…on this board to pass. I think that Commission Ridenhour…your two options as creative as they may be… just are difficult to enforce, frankly.  I don’t think we should be passing ordinances that are difficult to enforce.  That’s not the preferred option.

And frankly, we’re heading to a place where local governments aren’t going to have any authority at all or relatively little.

We’re essentially having a state government, a very sort of centralized control by distant state government, over local maters with the new majority there.

I’m not waving the white flag on it, but this is a situation where it is too difficult to carve out something that is enforceable, so I’m going to support Commissioner Bentley’s proposal.”

With that, the vote took place, and with a bi-partisan coalition consisting of Ridenhour, Bentley, James, Cotham, and Clarke, the amendment passed 5-2.  Commissioners Fuller and Leake were opposed.  Commissioners Ratliff and Dunlap were absent.

This represented a true victory for grassroots supporters of the second amendment.

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