Many in Richmond County question the wisdom of a measure passed by the N.C. House Wednesday to allow concealed firearms in restaurants, bars and public parks.
N.C. Rep. Ken Goodman voted against the measure, which passed the House 74 to 42. It will now go to the N.C. Senate.
During debates, Goodman said much of the opposition to the bill hinged on whether weapons should be allowed at little league ball games and other youth-oriented recreation.
“It’s not that I’m opposed to concealed weapons, but it just seems to me there are certain places where guns shouldn’t be allowed,” Goodman said. “I feel like a bar where they are serving alcohol is one place they shouldn’t be allowed, and parks where little children are playing is another.”
Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump said he wasn’t aware of all the legal implications of the bill, but didn’t feel it passes the smell test when it comes to public safety.
Should the law go into effect, the municipal government may have to draw up new ordinances banning guns from youth sports and other places.
“Right now, weapons are banned in all city facilities, parks and recreation included, but I don’t know how this law would supersede that,” Crump said. “It doesn’t sound like a good idea to me to have people armed going to bars and to public events,” Crump said Thursday. “The other question I have is, ‘What is different about taking a gun to a school, or taking one to a playground where there could be hundreds of children playing?’ I don’t see the wisdom in it.”
This bill is part of a larger push to expand the rights of gun owners in the state by the new Republican majority in the General Assembly. Other measures recently introduced include a bill that would shift the burden of proof for self-defense away from owners of homes, businesses or vehicles when they shoot someone who breaks in; a bill to make it illegal for a business owner to ban guns from their parking lot; and a bill lifting all state prohibitions on carrying a gun for local, state and federal elected officials.
Some gun control proponents say a poor message is being sent to the public at large.
“To believe these lawmakers, it’s because North Carolina is a dangerous place where you take your life into your hands just by going to work, vacationing at the lake or spending a weekend evening with friends,” North Carolinians Against Gun Violence Executive Director Roxane Kolar wrote in a recent editorial. “This doesn’t sound like North Carolina to me. And the data backs my claim. Since 2008, the rate of violent crime decreased 12.5 percent statewide; this includes the murder rate, which is down 19.1 percent.”
Seaboard Station Owner Willard Page said he sees nothing wrong with someone who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon sitting down to a plate of fried chicken and sweet tea at his eatery, but doesn’t agree with allowing concealed weapons in pool halls and bars.
“Personally, I’m for the right to bear arms - for the right people,” Page said Thursday. “I don’t see any reason to penalize the good people, because the bad people are going to get them anyway … I don’t agree with allowing concealed weapons anywhere where alcohol is served, though, because alcohol affects your judgement.”
While many see a potential for an increase in violent crime related to this law, Henry’s Uptown Cafe Owner Henry Antos actually sees it as a crime deterrent. He also pointed out those licensed to carry a concealed firearm go through a background check and safety-training.
“I think this is very positive,” Antos said. “You never know these days: there are people who like to steal, people who are high on drugs. The more people who are carrying (a firearm), the less likely they are to do anything. If the customers are packing, and the owner’s packing - it’s no longer an easy target.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.