Signs banning concealed guns coming down in Raleigh parks, but activists fight on

ccampbell@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2013 

Signs banning concealed weapons are still in place at many Raleigh parks, including this one at the entrance to Davie Street Park.

COLIN CAMPBELL — ccampbell@newsobserver.com

— City officials are taking down park signs this week that explicitly ban concealed weapons, but a gun rights group says the effort doesn’t go far enough.

Grass Roots North Carolina continues to lobby Raleigh’s parks department to update its signs to reflect the state law allowing concealed guns in parks. Grass Roots President Paul Valone says his members are getting ready to send Mayor Nancy McFarlane a gift: rolls of duct tape to cover up the controversial text.

Valone requested the sign update in an email to the Raleigh City Council last week. Over the weekend, he emailed his group’s 60,000 members, asking them to weigh in by sending a form letter to the council.

“The problem could be solved with a $3 roll of duct tape,” the suggested message reads. If the city doesn’t issue a public statement by Tuesday, it continues, “I will assume that Raleigh is in such poor financial shape that that it can’t comply. Accordingly, I will personally send you a roll of duct tape to cover the offending language.”

On Monday, Raleigh parks and recreation director Diane Sauer said the incorrect signs will be removed by Wednesday – a response to citizen complaints. But she added that the city won’t change signs that include multiple park rules and tell visitors they cannot “possess firearms or other weapons.” Those signs don’t distinguish between concealed or openly carried guns.

“The very general, multi-rule signs are still technically correct,” Sauer said. “The city can still prohibit open carry of all firearms and other weapons. ... As we order new ones or as they need to be replaced, we will put the updated information on them.”

Newer signs in Moore and Nash squares downtown tell visitors they can’t “openly carry or possess firearms.” Valone said that’s the only legal and accurate ban city parks can post under the state law, which was passed in 2011 and expanded this month to include playgrounds.

“I’m tired of seeing bureaucrats torture the English language to try to rationalize their actions,” Valone said of Sauer’s response. “Telling me that you’re only going to take down some of the illegal signs is akin to the citizens saying they’re only going to comply with the noise ordinance on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”

Sauer says the full sign replacement Grass Roots is demanding would involve about 650 new signs at a cost of $35,000. She’s noted that state law could change again in the future.

If the city doesn’t take any further action, Grass Roots has threatened to sue. In the short term, though, Valone plans to send a message with duct tape: He’ll set up a website allowing supporters to contribute money to mail rolls of adhesive to McFarlane’s office.

Valone says more than 1,000 members get involved in a typical lobbying effort for Grass Roots. “I’m sure Mayor McFarlane will enjoy a great deal of duct tape and the media fanfare that will go with it,” he said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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