Guns in Parks: Wrong for Chapel Hill

leestorrow's picture

On Monday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council will discuss complying with new state laws passed by the General Assembly in 2013 that specify that cites and towns cannot bar concealed handguns in parks and greenways (House Bill 937, now Session Law 2013-369). We’ve received many e-mails from community members who are concerned about this new law, but unfortunately we have limited ability as a Town Council to react to these changes. Many cities and towns in North Carolina have struggled to figure out how to come into compliance with these new laws. In Asheville and Durham, their City Councils unanimously passed resolutions in opposition to these new laws. The town of Kernersville attempted to keep up their signs banning guns in parks, but recently chose to remove them after pressure from the group Grass Roots North Carolina, who threatened to sue the town if Kernersville did not change the signs. Discussions about gun violence and the second amendment have taken on a new intensity in our country in the last year. These issues at times can be polarizing, but the nuances are more complicated. I hope we can all agree that protecting the safety of families and children should be a priority, and I believe the best way to insure those protections is not to allow concealed weapons in public parks.

I’ll be introducing a resolution modeled after the resolutions passed by Asheville and Durham on Monday night. While the resolution can’t change enforcement or impact of these new laws in the present, it states our community values and helps advance the dialogue about local impact of new state laws in North Carolina for the future. This General Assembly has done more to take away the power of towns and cities across our state than any in modern North Carolina history. I hope my colleagues will support this resolution, and I look forward to our discussion on Monday night. 

EDIT: I've adjusted the resolution with the help of Mayor pro temp Sally Greene to reflect our concerns around concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol and on private easements on our town greenways. 

RESOLUTION OF THE CHAPEL HILL TOWN COUNCIL EXPRESSING OPPOSITION TO RECENT GUN LAWS PASSED BY THE NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

WHEREAS, during the 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly, that body has passed laws lifting important restrictions on the possession of concealed handguns while at the same time sharply limiting localities’ ability to place their own restrictions on the possession of concealed handguns; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Chapel Hill changed its town code to come into compliance with these new laws in January 2014; and

WHEREAS, these new laws allow gun permit holders to carry concealed weapons into Chapel Hill’s playgrounds, parks, trails and greenways; and

WHEREAS, Chapel Hill’s parks are multi-purpose and serve as an opportunity for play and participation by children and adults of all ages, in various sporting and athletic events; and

WHEREAS, the Town’s greenways are unique in that they touch and are in close proximity to private residential homes, wrap around and adjoin residential zoning districts and are utilized for transportation and recreation by citizens all ages; and

WHEREAS, many communities in North Carolina have experienced dangerous and unwanted acts of gun violence in their parks or on their trails; and

WHEREAS, in some cases the Town’s greenway trails consist of easements acquired from property owners with the property owner retaining a fee simple interest in the underlying real property; and

WHEREAS, the 2013 legislation is silent on whether the new laws apply to such easements; and

WHEREAS, the 2013 legislation creates an additional use of the easements to which property owners did not explicitly consent when granting the easements; and

WHEREAS, property owners who granted greenway easements may find their property rights circumscribed and suppressed by greenway users wishing to carry a concealed handgun on such greenways; and

WHEREAS, it is imperative that citizens and members of the North Carolina General Assembly understand that these new laws not only arrogate the control from municipalities over Town parks and restrict a Town’s ability to provide for the safety and well being of the most vulnerable population, that being children and the elderly, but also create potential conflict between private property owners and greenway users wishing to carry concealed weapons; and

WHEREAS, local citizen groups such as North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, NC MomsRising, and Moms Demand action for Gun Sense in America-N.C. Chapter are providing crucial leadership in alerting the public in Chapel Hill and across North Carolina to the dangers of the General Assembly’s new gun laws; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Chapel Hill urges citizens and others who have expressed concern and alarm over the Town’s inability to prohibit concealed handguns in Town recreational facilities to contact members of the North Carolina General Assembly to convey such sentiment; and

WHEREAS, mixing guns and alcohol consumption in restaurants and bars is dangerous and unwise, endangering Chapel Hill’s law enforcement officers as well as the general public; and

WHEREAS, the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police opposes allowing guns into establishments where alcohol is served and says that doing so creates an “unacceptable potential for danger to the public”; and

WHEREAS, private businesses are permitted to post notices prohibiting concealed weapons on those premises and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is lending assistance to downtown bars and restaurants that wish to post such notices in the interest of public safety; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Chapel Hill Town Council opposes and deplores the recent state legislation lifting restrictions on concealed weapons in local parks, playgrounds, trails, greenways, and dining establishments that serve alcohol, and hereby urges the General Assembly to reverse these actions or, at a minimum, to grant local governing bodies reasonable authority to limit the places where the owners of concealed weapons can take their guns; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town Manager shall send a letter to each property owner that has granted a greenway easement to the Town advising of the potential right to bar passage over their private property by persons carrying weapons, concealed or otherwise, and of the ability to post signage accordingly on the greenway easement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chapel Hill Town Council urges all Chapel Hill residents to refrain from violence in any form, especially including gun violence; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Town Manager share this resolution with each member of the Chapel Hill legislative delegation and broadly with the public

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5 Comments

ldhintz's picture

guns in park resolution

I like the resolution but the phrase ("new laws arrogates the control") could be made more readable.  Also as a community I would hope we would feel safe enough that no one believes they need a weapon while walking in a town park.

Roscoe's picture

Option?

What do I know?  Can the Town deed all parks & greenways + easements to a private nonprofit foundation that could prohibit guns on property?

leestorrow's picture

Tonight

Given the importance of this discussion, Mayor Kleinschmidt suggested
tonight that we not make any decisions on this topic until we have more
information. Look for the Town Council to take it back up at an upcoming
meeting. Thanks to those who waited many hours to speak on this important
topic.

James Barrett's picture

School board change

The law added this year that applies to school property is: "The provisions of this section shall not apply to a person who has a concealed handgun permit who has a handgun in a closed compartment or container within the person's locked vehicle or in a locked container securely affixed to the person's vehicle."I asked our attorney a couple of weeks ago if we had any policy changes required to comply with this, meaning that just because something is no longer illegal, does that really require us to *explicitly permit* it in policy?  Well, apparently the answer was yes, because we were presented with a policy change on Thursday to allow the situation above on CHCCS property.The policy change passed first reading, 4-2, with Burroughs and Barrett voting against.  I couldn't vote for this policy change as I'm happy to have ambiguous policy when it better reflects our values than the alternative. I just hope nothing bad comes from having guns in our parking lots.