Chapel Hill downtown group targets new NC concealed carry gun law

CorrespondentSeptember 4, 2013 

— Though it’s not taking an official stance, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is offering “No Concealed Weapons” stickers to Franklin Street bar owners, in response to a new state gun law.

A bill signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in July lets people with permits carry concealed handguns where alcohol is served.

“Certainly there may be some that are pleased and want to allow that, and we aren’t arguing,” said Meg McGurk, who heads the Downtown Partnership. “But we wanted to provide (stickers) to the businesses that might not be aware the legislation had been passed.”

As with drinking, you must be 21 to buy a gun in North Carolina.

The new law makes concealed handguns permissible at parades, funerals and movie theaters and loosens some restrictions for concealed-carry on public universities and state land.

Consumption of alcohol remains illegal when carrying a firearm. However, the new law says that unless the owner has posted a notice saying otherwise, carrying a concealed weapon into a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol is OK, starting in October.

There are some 280,000 people in North Carolina with permits to carry concealed weapons.

Subash Panneerselvam, owner of the Indian restaurant Chola Nad on Franklin Street, said he would tell a customer with a gun to put it in the car if he saw it.

“It is scary for others, and that’s one of the reasons I put up the ‘No Concealed Weapons sticker,’ ” he said.

A customer packing heat would be committing a crime if he brought a gun to Chola Nad. If the owner posts a sign and you bring your gun inside, it’s a class-one misdemeanor.

“I don’t feel it’s an unsafe city,” said Panneerselvam, who lived in the Boston area before coming to Chapel Hill. “Out of two years, I have seen just one time fighting.”

According to data from the N.C. Department of Justice, Orange County had 2,560 valid concealed-carry permits on file a year ago. Concealed-carry permits in Durham County were 3,832.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office did not return calls for this story.

According to USA Carry, a website offering information on the gun laws in 50 states, it costs $80 to obtain a concealed-carry permit in North Crolina, with an additional processing fee not exceeding $10.

Renewal fees are $75, according to USA Carry. A permit is valid for five years.

Terry Rowland, a systems analyst at the Odum Institute, is a gun owner who agrees with the law, though he does not have a concealed-carry permit.

“It’s kind of complicated when it comes to the law, so a lot of times, if I’m unclear, I’ll just leave my gun at home,” Rowland said.

The Downtown Partnership, which is funded jointly by the town, university and a special-service-district tax, spent $200 on about 70 stickers.

“I started asking around,” McGurk said. “They were saying they weren’t aware of it, they didn’t know (the law) had changed.”

There are no current plans to distribute signs saying concealed weapons are welcome, McGurk said.

‘Wasting time’

“I just wonder what else the legislature is wasting their time on,” Blue Horn Lounge owner Tim Wood said, “with all the problems we have now.”

The Blue Horn Lounge’s tinted windowfront on Franklin Street made the partnership’s sticker invisible, so he went online and ordered another kind.

“Guns are a tool for killing. Alcohol is a tool for making bad judgment,” Wood said. “The two should not be combined.”

In 2007, six people were shot inside Visions Night Club in Chapel Hill. The downtown club’s management closed it immediately.

The year before, Chapel Hill police closed down Club Avalon after Kedrain Swann, 26, was shot 12 times outside the Rosemary Street nightclub following an altercation inside, and died.

Chapel Hill Police Lt. Kevin Gunter said the police department can advise bar owners if they get in contact.

Chris Carini, owner of Linda’s Bar and Grill, said he trusted law enforcement, not untrained passersby, to keep law and order. “If it’s concealed, and I don’t know they have it, better to just put the sticker up.”

Hartwell: 504-251-6670

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