Commissioners put off vote to allow guns in county parks

Commissioners put off vote to allow guns in county parks


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 11:27 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The ban on guns in Mecklenburg County parks will have to wait.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Commission voted Tuesday night to have the county attorney look at the ordinance and present new options on May 7. The ordinance is aimed at setting stricter gun laws at public parks.

Two weeks ago, the commission rescheduled the vote to Tuesday when it was apparent a deeper discussion on the ordinance was in order.

"I like to find something that addresses the concerns of the pro-gun community and those who say guns are a threat, and find someplace we can all find a balance," said District 5 Commissioner, Matthew Ridenhour.

He believes the ordinance, as it is written, is too vague and restrictive.

It prohibits concealed weapon permit holders from being 25 feet from certain recreational facilities and areas. These include athletic fields, playgrounds and swimming pools.

"There is no provision in state statute for a 25 feet buffer zone, so I think that needs to go," said Ridenhour. "I think we get into trouble if we start looking at 25 feet barriers, 50 feet barriers or banning from all buildings and restrooms. Then we get into a grey area where we will be challenged by others in the pro-gun community."

The commissioner plans to propose what he says would be a compromise: to restrict guns among active participants in sports events and at all playgrounds.

Paul Valone with Grass Roots North Carolina believes that when "gun-free" zones are created, it attracts violent predators.

He said, compared to other municipalities the group is currently monitoring, Mecklenburg County's proposed ordinance is at least in line with what the statute intended.

He also said if the county passes the 25 feet restriction guideline, the ordinance may still be legally challenged.

"We would prefer they pass no ordinance whatsoever and not restrict handguns in parks in any way, shape or form," he said.

Opinions are mixed. Some parents told NBC Charlotte they don't mind people carrying guns at the playgrounds while others want to see more police patrol and no guns.

"There should absolutely not be guns on the playground. There is no reason for it. I don't need to come to the park wondering if someone's gun will go off," said Kawana Heggins.

Her husband, Dennis agreed.

"Why would you want to bring a gun to a place with all these kids, especially if you have kids? I understand they have the right to carry but you can accidentally shoot someone, a child or yourself. You just never know."