Tuesday, March 18, 2014 11:47 PM
Tea Party to address council on gun ban
By Rochelle Moore | Times Staff Writer
Members of the Wilson Tea Party plan to tell the Wilson City Council Thursday the recent vote to ban concealed handguns from public property infringes on their Second Amendment rights.
Fifty members of the local Tea Party said they planned to attend the council meeting Thursday in City Hall, said Bobby Aycock, a member of the party. Aycock is uncertain if all will attend but several plan to voice their opposition during the public comment period.
"It’s not just the Tea Party that’s concerned about it,” said Bobby Pittman, party organizer. "There are a lot of citizens who are concerned about it. We’re getting a lot of feedback. Our hope is to bring it to the public’s attention that just because they voted for it and there was no dissension, that’s not the case.”
Pittman said there is concern that the majority of the council is not supportive of their Constitutional right to bear arms and defend themselves. Pittman also said that people who have concealed carry permits are responsible, law-abiding citizens.
"It’s our Second Amendment right to defend ourselves in this area,” Pittman said. "A gun-free zone is a sure-kill zone.”
Of greater concern is the possibility that local, as well as state and federal, government could eventually strip Americans of their personal rights, he added.
"Who’s to say that limitations can be placed on us?” Pittman said. "There’s more people with concealed carry (permits) today than ever before and it’s because of our lack of faith in government. I don’t want any of my Constitutional rights infringed on. This is very serious to me.”
They only plan to talk and don’t plan signs or anything else Thursday night, they said.
The Wilson City Council voted 5-2 in February in favor of the ordinance that bans concealed handguns from any local government building and any municipal recreational facility, including an athletic field and its restrooms during an organized athletic event. Concealed handguns are also prohibited at swimming pools and associated facilities, and facilities used for athletic events, including but not limited to a gymnasium.
Concealed guns may be stored in a locked vehicle trunk or glove box at a recreational facility. The law does not apply to greenways, designated biking or walking paths or other open areas, including parks where athletic events are not occurring, said Harry Tyson, deputy city manager of operations and public services.
Concealed handguns are allowed at some city parks but not others. Concealed handguns are not allowed when athletic events are occurring at such places as the Burt Gillette Athletic Complex, Cavalier Park or Lane Street Park.
Concealed handguns are allowed at some of the city’s larger open parks and areas, including Lake Wilson and the Buckhorn reservoir, and smaller parks including Belle Meade, Carolina Street Park and Five Points Park because there are no organized athletic events.
After the council’s vote, Tyson said some residents were under the impression that the council established new rules when, instead, the council updated city rules and expanded areas where concealed weapons can be carried.
The city’s 1969 ordinance has prohibited guns, concealed or open, on public property, including city-owned buildings and properties such as parks and other outdoor recreational areas. In 1995, the city ordinance was updated to include concealed weapons, which remained prohibited in the same locations.
The council’s recent vote was an effort to update city laws in accordance with state law, which addressed weapons laws in 2013 and increased areas where handguns are allowed, including restaurants and bars, public parks, nature trails and school parking laws.
Voting in favor of the city ordinance were Councilwoman Gwen Burton and Councilmen A.P. Coleman, Tom Fyle, Derrick Creech and James Johnson III. Voting against the ordinance were Councilman Donald Evans and Councilman Logan Liles.
Aycock said he and other Tea Party members are concerned about Fyle’s vote because they believed he would support the Second Amendment as a Republican. The council operates as a nonpartisan board.
Fyle said he supports the Second Amendment.
"I’m not going to comment on anything until I hear what they have to say,” Fyle said. "I am going to be prepared to give them some background information. There’s really nothing to say until Thursday night.”
Tea Party members are also attending the council meeting to let council members know they are watching the decisions they make, Aycock said. The Wilson Tea Party and its members have not spoken against the ordinance that was discussed by the council in November and February. Aycock said that the group did not believe that the ordinance would fail. In November, two of the seven members of council, Evans and former Councilman Bill Blackman, spoke against the concealed carry rules.
"At some point someone has to draw the line in the sand,” Aycock said. "Our main objective is to let the members of city council know we’re watching. We just wanted to show them that we are watching and voting time will come again.”
The council meets at 7 p.m. in City Hall, at 112 Goldsboro St. in downtown Wilson. Anyone interested in speaking during the public comment period must sign up with the city clerk before the meeting starts.
Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina and executive director of Rights Watch International, was one of the principal architects of recently passed state laws regarding concealed handguns. He’s also reviewed the city’s ordinance.
Valone has said state law dramatically expanded areas where permit-holders can carry weapons and the city’s ordinance provides more areas where permit-holders are able to carry concealed guns.
"The new law and complying ordinance actually expands the areas in which concealed handgun permit-holders can protect themselves,” Valone said.
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