New law allows guns in bars, parks, school parking lots
Starting Oct. 1, concealed carry permit holders will be allowed to carry guns to bars, public parks, school parking lots and more as a result of legislative changes in the concealed carry law.
Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 937 expanding on where concealed handguns are allowed, which also includes parades, public recreation areas and playgrounds.
The new law will allow legal permit holders to carry their concealed weapon into restaurants and bars that sell alcohol as long as they don’t consume alcohol or illegal controlled substances. However, the bill allows those property owners to forbid firearms on the premises by posting signs.
Becky Robinson, owner of the Water’n Hole in Waynesville, says she doesn’t believe allowing people to bring guns into bars is a good idea.
“At no time is this ever a place to have a weapon,” she said. “I don’t see how letting random people carry weapons into an establishment like this would make anyone feel more protected.”
Though Robinson has taken the concealed carry class, she says she has never felt compelled to bring a gun with her to the restaurant. Though arguments in the bar are not uncommon, she said “all-out brawls” are a rare occurrence. For the most part, her patrons are respectful and follow the rules.
Robinson fears that posting a sign banning weapons could deter business because it might make people believe the bar is dangerous, which is not the case.
“We deal with situations before they get out of hand,” she said, adding that she has no problem asking people to leave if they make others feel uncomfortable.
“If I knew someone was carrying a gun I would ask them to remove it or to leave,” she said.
For now, Robinson doesn’t plan to post a ban on weapons unless any problems arise.
“I think we’ll probably leave things be for now. I don’t expect people to all of a sudden bring a bunch of guns to the bar,” she said.
Her only fear is that a person might bring a gun into the bar with intentions to stay sober, but forget they have a gun and start drinking.
“I feel comfortable breaking up any argument, but if people are going to be carrying weapons, I’ll have to be a lot more cautious with the way I approach the situation,” she said.
If other local bars posted a ban on weapons, she said she would be more likely to do so too.
“The first time anyone pulls a weapon in anger, it’s going to put all of us in jeopardy of our businesses being tarnished,” she said.
Steve Hurley, who owns Hurley’s Creekside Dining and Rhum Bar in Maggie Valley, said he intends to post a sign when the law goes into effect if that’s what it takes to keep weapons out of his restaurant.
Though he said he never gets rowdy crowds at his bar, he’d rather be safe than sorry.
“I don’t want guns around while people are drinking,” he said. “It’s a family restaurant — we have a lot of families coming in with small kids and it would be terrible if something did happen. I don’t want that in my restaurant.”
In the three years he’s owned the bar, Hurley said he’s never had any problems and he hopes people would respect his rules.
“I’m hoping that people that do come in would honor that and leave their guns in their cars,” he said.
Bar owners who want to take further precautions against the measure can place metal detectors at the entrance or hire workers to check people at the door, said Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher.
"Alcohol and guns don't mix. That's the bottom line," Christopher said.
Guns at school must be locked in a vehicle
Aside from allowing guns in bars, the new law will make it OK for those with concealed carry permits to bring them into public school or college parking lots as long as the guns are kept in a locked car.
Local government units could previously prohibit firearms in certain areas, but the new law changes the definition so that "recreational facilities" only apply to athletic fields, swimming pools or event centers such as a gymnasium. Those with valid permits are now allowed to carry them on greenways, bike or walking paths and open fields, as well as at parades and funerals.
Towns such as Canton which have passed an ordinance and posted signs banning firearms from town parks may now need to reconsider the issue.
Canton Town Manager Al Matthews said the town will seek directives on how the issue can be handled once the new law takes effect in October.
Another provision in the law requires dealers in pistols and other weapons to keep a confidential record of sales that can be shared with law enforcement upon request. Previously, those records have been open to the public.
Legislators dropped a controversial provision in the bill that would have repealed the current pistol permit system, which requires would-be gun owners to apply for a permit through the local sheriff's office.
The efforts to remove that system was heavily opposed by the NC Sheriff's Association, which noted the current system allows sheriffs to conduct a more thorough background check on people who wish to own guns than other systems. Gov. McCrory threatened to veto the bill if the provision remained.
The law is also tougher on criminals who commit felonies using a firearm, which will result in an enhanced sentence.