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Blowing Rock residents target gun amendment

Article Published: Jan. 12, 2012 | Modified: Jan. 12, 2012
Blowing Rock residents target gun amendment

Blowing Rock’s council meeting was packed Tuesday night with residents concerned about a
town code amendment regarding weapons on town property.

Photo by Lonnie Webster

An Internet campaign by the Grass Roots North Carolina organization to persuade members of the Blowing Rock Town Council to vote against a proposed amendment to a town ordinance may have backfired when residents of the town got wind of it.

Last month, GRNC sent a notice to its members that the town of Blowing Rock was considering an amendment to chapter 15 of the town code regarding weapons on town property to bring the code into compliance with recently modified state statutes. The proposed amendment would maintain restrictions on gun possession at Memorial Park, Davant Field and the Grover Robbins Swimming Complex.

The GRNC Internet posting urged its members to call Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence, the Blowing Rock Town Council members and other persons and tell them they opposed the proposed ban.

It also listed phone numbers for the mayor and members of the town council and urged its members to attend the Tuesday meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council.

In the days leading up to the meeting, several residents of Blowing Rock sent emails and phone messages urging others to support the proposed ban and call their town representatives. They also urged Blowing Rock residents to attend the January meeting and to wear something green as a symbol of unity.

At the public hearing portion of the proposed amendment on Tuesday evening, 27 people spoke publicly for or against the proposed gun ban.

More than 175 people attended the meeting, which was held in the new community room of the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum to accommodate the crowd.

The speakers were directed by Lawrence to alternate between those for the proposed ban and those against. In the end, it seemed that those for the ban were almost all Blowing Rock citizens, while the majority of those against the ban were from other towns and that seemed to be the deciding factor when the vote was cast.

By a 3-2 vote, the commissioners approved the proposed amendment to ban handguns in the three recreational areas.

“It was seven-to-one the people who called me who didn’t want guns in the park,” said councilman Jim Steele. “Our citizens fund these parks, for the most part, and they don’t want guns in recreational area. I find this to be a compromise solution because we are not looking to ban guns in other areas such as Glen Burney Trail and Broyhill Park.”

“Is it too much to ask somebody with a conceal carry permit to put it away for the time you are going to be in the park? I’m sorry, but that’s the way we want to live. I have a conceal carry permit, and I can’t tell you how many places I am denied the privilege of bringing my gun,” he said. “To add three little places in the middle of town is not too much to ask. If our town suddenly becomes a dangerous place, we can always revisit this issue.”

Commissioner Albert Yount added that the calls he received were eight-to-one in favor of the proposed ban. The ban also had the support of Blowing Rock Police Chief Eric Brown and the Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation Department.

The town council was faced with three choices considering the proposed amendment. They could approve it, disallow it, or approve it with alterations.

The first motion for action was to disallow the proposed amendment. That motion failed by a 2-3 vote. The following motion to approve the amendment passed by a 3-2 vote. Councilmen Dan Phillips and Tommy Klutz cast the dissenting votes.

“I stand with the second amendment of the constitution,” said Klutz. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

“Blowing Rock is a great place to live and most of us pay more because we choose to live here,” said Ben Powell during the public hearing. “We want to keep our kids safe and all we are asking for is a teeny corner of public land where we can be free from worry about guns. Accidents happen. Let’s not take the risk.”

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