Baker suggests city weapons-law changes

Mar. 30, 2013 @ 07:13 PM

City Attorney Patrick Baker has proposed a rewrite of Durham’s gun-possession rules that would tighten restrictions on openly carrying weapons while also squaring the city’s rules for concealed carry with state law.

Baker’s draft went to the City Council in anticipation of a review by elected officials beginning at a work session on Thursday.

The most important change strikes the word “possession” from the city code provision that deals with weapons and replaces it with “display” – a change in which Baker replaces a vague word with a specific one.

Possession “is a broad term” that “may involve carrying a weapon openly or concealed,” he said in a memo to the council. “A municipality has the authority to prohibit the open carrying – display – of any type of dangerous weapon, including a firearm, on city property.”

The proposed rewrite would also add streets and sidewalks to the list of places a person would be barred from displaying a weapon. The list now includes city buildings, parks, recreation facilities, cemeteries, landfills, parking garages and parking lots.

As Baker noted, the ordinance covers more than firearms. His proposal takes in air rifles, air pistols, BB guns, crossbows, bows and arrows, bowie knives, dirks, daggers, slingshots, “loaded canes,” metallic knuckles, razors, shuriken, stun guns, switchblades and blackjacks.

Baker said there “is no need” to address concealed weapons via a possession ordinance because the state already bars the carrying of a concealed weapon – except when a person has a permit issued by the local sheriff’s office that allows the concealed carry of a handgun.

To square Durham’s rules with a 2011 law passed by the N.C. General Assembly, he suggests the council spell out the limits on concealed-carry rights for city property.

His draft would authorize the city manager to have no-concealed-weapons notices placed on city buildings and at 59 playgrounds, 30 athletic fields, five public swimming pools and 34 other recreational facilities.

The 2011 law narrowed cities’ authority to restrict concealed-carry rights in parks, allowing limits only for playgrounds, athletic fields, swimming pools and athletic facilities. Cities have to formally list the places they want restrictions.

Baker’s proposed list includes such notable facilities as the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Durham Athletic Park and Hillandale Golf Course.

The attorney’s proposal would allow the open display of long guns inside a locked motor vehicle on city property, and allow people who have concealed-carry permits to keep a handgun in the glove box, trunk or other enclosed compartment of a locked vehicle that’s on city property.

Both those provisions reflect or echo state law.

Baker said his proposal “would regulate the carrying of concealed weapons on city property to the extent allowed by” the state.

The open-display provision likewise is tied to state law, though in addressing streets and sidewalks it goes further than the city’s existing possession rules.

State legislators in recent years have made it clear they’re not keen on seeing local governments restrict concealed-carry rights. But North Carolina law says cities “may regulate the display of firearms on the streets, sidewalks, alleys or other public property.”