By Adam Orr
Monday night, county commissioners again voted to restrict concealed weapons in county parks and recreation areas.
“We flat failed the people of Ashe County,” said Commissioner Gary Roark in Monday’s 2 p.m. work-session. “Over the past two weeks, I’ve not had one person tell me they were against guns in parks. They (residents Roark has talked to) wanted to go strictly with what the state handed down. I think we should do what the people elected us to do, but I think we failed them. Basically, what we did, we let the people of Ashe County down.”
Roark voted on Feb. 6, and again Monday, to allow those with a concealed weapons permit to carry handguns in county recreational areas.
“There’s 27,000 people in this county,” said Commission Board Chairman Judy Poe. “And there’s 900 permit holders. The people that are against something, or for something, when they want to champion it, they come in (to voice their opinion in public hearings). All the people complaining about concealed carry, when they go to work, they’re not allowed to carry guns. I don’t see them quitting their jobs or going into GE, or Sprague Electric, or Gates and saying, ‘You know, we want this policy changed.”
Mondays vote, made necessary by the Feb. 6, 3-2 vote by commissioners to restrict guns in county parks, was made necessary because the first decision was not unanimous.
Commissioners William Sands, Larry Rhodes, and Judy Poe approved a motion on Feb. 6, to regulate concealed weapons on county recreation facilities including Beaver Creek Industrial Park practice fields, Family Central’s gym and ball fields, as well as Ashe County Park during organized county events. Commissioners Gerald Price and Gary Roark opposed the motion.
Monday’s vote, again a 3-2 decision, fell along the same lines as the previous vote.
The changes to Chapter 32: County Policies do not explicitly outline how the walking trails at Ashe County Park are affected by the new ordinance, though Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell did say that concealed carry permit holders could carry a concealed weapon on the trail, when not in use by disc golfers.
The new ordinance was discussed for more than two months by commissioners. In 2011, the N.C. General Assembly approved HB 650, which relaxed gun laws and allowed concealed weapons in state parks by permit holders.
The law, which took effect Dec. 1, does allow counties and municipalities the option to regulate concealed weapons in specific recreational areas.
According to Ashe County Attorney John Kilby, HB 650 also superseded current county concealed weapon ordinances and forced commissioners to pass a new ordinance.