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