Change to Raleigh park signs satisfies gun rights group

11/01/2013 10:25 AM

11/01/2013 10:27 AM

A gun rights group is ending its lobbying push against Raleigh after city leaders expanded the number of park signs they’ll change in response to the outcry.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Raleigh parks and recreation director Diane Sauer said workers will cover up the word “firearms” on signs that list multiple park rules. Because those signs don’t distinguish between concealed and openly carried guns, Sauer had earlier said they wouldn’t be changed until they wore out or became damaged.

“While the multi-rule signs are technically correct, the city will be modifying the signs by removing the word ‘firearms,’” Sauer said, adding that they’ll now show it’s illegal to “possess weapons.”

Signs that specifically ban concealed weapons were removed from all Raleigh parks by Wednesday, Sauer said. A 2011 state law allows concealed weapons in parks with a county-issued permit.

Grass Roots North Carolina – the group that threatened a lawsuit concerning the outdated signs – is declaring victory.

“From what we can see, their changes in the sign are going to comply with the law,” said the group’s president, Paul Valone. “We thank them for finally seeing the light, albeit reluctantly.”

Newer signs in Moore and Nash squares downtown tell visitors they can’t “openly carry or possess firearms.” Valone has 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.

The city changed its tune on the signs several days after Valone 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.”

Dozens of Grass Roots members emailed the message to the council. The public statement requested was issued to the media on Tuesday afternoon.

Sauer had earlier said the full sign replacement Grass Roots was demanding would involve about 650 new signs at a cost of $35,000; she noted that state law could change again in the future. The solution announced Tuesday will cost much less because the city won’t have to buy new signs.

But Valone says there’s still work to be done to ensure cities follow the 2011 state law allowing concealed guns in parks. With a Republican-led state legislature that has implemented gun-friendly laws, he said the fight now takes place at the local level.

“We will now move on to Wilmington,” he said. “Raleigh is the first in a series of actions to ensure that the days when bureaucrats could ignore state gun laws are over.”

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