This summer, the General Assembly amended North Carolina’s gun laws to prohibit municipal governments from banning lawfully concealed handguns on greenways and walking paths (§ 14-415.23d). This did not go over well with some local governments. After considering a measure that would have effectively nullified the law, city council members in Winston-Salem elected merely to criticize it:
[Council Member Dan] Besse went on to describe how it would be possible for a toddler at a park to pull a gun from someone’s purse and fire it, and said that people will be ‘outraged to hear that they cannot go to a public park’ without being in the presence of concealed handguns.
The councilman’s objections are largely unfounded: the risk of accidental shootings posed by concealed-carry is extremely low. Yes, there are rare incidents where negligence happens. But gun owners – and concealed-carry permit holders especially – are on the whole safe, responsible individuals. In North Carolina, over 200,000 concealed handgun permits have been issued from 1995-2011. And yet there have been precious few incidents by concealed carry permit holders. That is because citizens who undergo the special training and legal scrutiny required to carry a concealed handgun know that one misstep or misjudgment can expose them to criminal charges or civil liability.
While concealed-carry is a low-risk proposition, the same cannot be said of municipal greenways: Running paths are notoriously dangerous places in many cities. This week in Durham, a man became the latest victim of crime on the infamous American Tobacco Trail, where last year there were at least 13 incidents of rape, robbery, and assault.
Gun bans in city greenways do not make anyone safer, except for criminals. The “No Weapons” signs posted in city parks only embolden criminals and make law-abiding citizens into potential victims.
Allowing concealed carry on greenways is a major step towards making greenways safer by allowing citizens to lawfully defend themselves if faced with a lethal threat. Criminals will think twice about attacking people who might be armed.
The new gun law takes effect on October 1.