News & Record (Greensboro, NC)
BYLINE: AMANDA LEHMERT
GREENSBORO – Despite deep concerns from gun rights advocates, the City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday to ban concealed weapons at city athletic fields, pools, recreation centers and playgrounds.
Since 1995, the city has had an outright ban on concealed weapons in all park areas.
Last year, the General Assembly made that ban illegal but allowed the city to continue the ban in certain recreation areas, such as playgrounds or ball fields.
The new ordinance actually increases the number of Greensboro park facilities where people can exercise their concealed permit rights. Permit holders may carry guns in general park lands, such as hiking trails or lakes – something that previously was not allowed.
Council members Trudy Wade, Zack Matheny and Nancy Vaughan voted against the ban.
Opponents of the ban far outnumbered proponents Tuesday night. Gun rights advocates argued that residents need to be able to defend their children and themselves at parks.
“People who have no regard for the law will be the only ones with guns. Once there is a rape or kidnapping in our parks, it will be too late for that person for you to change your minds,” said resident Jean Brown, who said she has carried her concealed gun at a local park after she was frightened by a group of teenage boys.
Parks and Recreation Director Greg Jackson said that despite cries from gun rights advocates that the ban would create an open season for criminals, recreation areas have not become a center for violence.
Police Chief Ken Miller said there have been five violent crimes at the city’s parks in the past three years that could have merited using a concealed weapon for self-defense .
The council turned down Wade’s recommendation to only ban concealed handguns from city buildings.
Also Tuesday, the council met in a closed-door session for about two hours to discuss the ongoing police lawsuits and separate personnel issues involving police Capt. James Hinson.
Vaughan had raised questions about a possible conflict of interest in Hinson’s roles as director of two group homes and as commander of the police department’s Eastern Patrol Division. Local blogger Ben Holder also had questioned if Hinson had provided the proper employment information to the city.
After the closed session, interim City Manager Denise Turner Roth said all the questions raised were investigated and were determined to be unfounded. She did not mention Hinson by name.
“The chief made his case. It’s his department. We will abide by his ruling,” Vaughan said.
The city won’t release records related to Hinson’s outside employment on the grounds that state law prevents the release of certain employee information.
Vaughan has asked the attorney general to explore that issue for the city.
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