MORRISVILLE — Mayor Jackie Holcombe said she isn’t pleased state legislators have expanded gun laws to allow permit holders to bring concealed weapons onto playgrounds, greenways and athletic fields.
Holcombe is urging Morrisville town staff to review the new law, which went into effect Oct. 1, to see if there is room to restrict guns near children in public areas. The council is expected to vote on the revisions Oct. 22.
“I wanted staff to see if there are any options at all,” Holcombe said.
Under the state law, guns aren’t allowed during specific times such as cricket-league practices and soccer practices, she said. “But there is no similar option for parents who would like to use our playgrounds,” Holcombe said.
Council members Steve Rao, Steve Diehl and Margaret Broadwell agreed staff should take a closer look at the law.
In 2011, the state allowed municipalities to restrict concealed weapons in recreational facilities including playgrounds, athletic fields and swimming pools. Two years later, state lawmakers reversed course.
Towns and cities now can restrict permit holders only from bringing concealed firearms onto sports fields when there is a town-sponsored event. Gun owners can also bring concealed weapons onto greenways and other walking paths.
“I am not a big fan of this,” Holcombe said. “I don’t agree with the opinion that the state legislature knows what’s best for all communities in North Carolina. I’d really like staff to take a look at this to see if there are times of day when we can have families come to playgrounds without the threat of concealed handguns.”
While staff agreed to look into the issue, there isn’t likely to be a loophole.
“I am not a lawyer,” said Councilwoman Liz Johnson, “but reading the way the statute reads, there doesn’t seem like a lot of leeway. If anyone is unhappy they need to take it up with the state and the General Assembly. Our responsibility is to adhere to state law.”
But the law does create confusion, Broadwell said.
“I’m not sure how to interpret this,” she said. “When there’s an event, does that mean (the) whole field plus playground? I’m a little confused.… If it can’t be separated out, where does that leave us?”
Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Allen said enforcing state law at Shiloh Park may be where there is confusion, because the cricket field is next to a playground.
Councilmen Mark Stohlman and Michael Schlink said they favored moving forward with the revisions. The town needs to comply with the law, they said.
“You have to look at everyone in town and their rights,” Schlink said.
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