The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday December 6th

State fair affected by new NC gun law

Grass Roots North Carolina, an organization devoted to expanding the rights of gun owners across the state, has claimed that concealed carry permit holders should be allowed to bring guns onto the fairgrounds this year under two statutes passed by the General Assembly in 2013.

The provisions are part of a law that also allows people with concealed carry permits to bring firearms onto public university campuses in the state, including UNC, provided that they keep the guns in locked cars.

This year’s fair will begin Oct. 16 at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh and run until Oct. 26.

Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots, said the group is contemplating legal action against the fair.

“This dispute will not end until the Department of Agriculture obeys the law,” Valone said.

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has said he will enforce the fair's no-gun policy.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed the concealed carry bill into law after legislators passed it in 2013. But Josh Ellis, a spokesman for McCrory, said in an email that the governor agrees with the conclusion reached by Troxler.

Brian Long, press director of the fair, said the fair has a long-standing policy against weapons of all kinds and that will not change this year.

“We’ve discussed this with legislators, who said the changes in the law were not intended to allow weapons at the State Fair,” Long said. “Because the new law is unclear, we are erring on the side of public safety and common sense. Our no-weapons policy has been around for a long, long time. It has worked well, and we believe it should remain in place,” Long said.

Valone said Grass Roots believes that guns at the fair are necessary for protection.

“Specifically, large groups of people are at risk for a number of factors, including terrorism, active shooters and other large scale violence,” he said.

Valone said there have been several instances of violence at state fairs across the U.S. He said if fairgoers were allowed to bring guns these types of events could be curtailed.

But Long said guns are a safety concern rather than a tool to increase public safety.

“The mix of kids, guns, rides and large crowds at the State Fair is a bad idea. One of our concerns is the accidental discharge of a firearm,” he said. “Things fall out of people’s pockets and jackets: cell phones, wallets, jewelry, keys. It’s conceivable to think a handgun could fall out, too, especially if someone is on a ride.”

Long said other sports and entertainment venues in the state do not allow weapons, including Kenan Stadium, the Smith Center, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Walnut Creek Amphitheater — and he said the fair should be no different.

state@dailytarheel.com



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