Troxler takes right stand on State Fair guns

State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, a Republican, is no liberal gun-control advocate. But his judgment to ban guns from the N.C. State Fair is a sound following of common-sense precedent.

Thanks to a ridiculous law liberalizing gun rights passed by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2013, however, concealed-carry gun owners may actually be able to tote their firearms into this year’s fair.

Here again, Republican determination to appease the pro-gun lobby has resulted in a disaster waiting to happen.

Grass Roots North Carolina, a gun-rights group, staunchly defends a bad law, almost proudly saying that concealed-carry gun owners can carry during the fair. The group’s argument is as weathered and wrong-headed as it has always been: Gun owners are responsible people and criminals are the ones who should be the government’s focus. Yes, even after Newtown and a multitude of other gun-related tragedies, that group and others view almost any form of gun restrictions as a threat to democracy.

That’s a preposterous argument overall, but the issue with the State Fair shows how wrong-headed, narrow-minded and nonsensical it becomes in specific instances.

It takes just one

The fairgrounds are full of children of all ages. What if among all those responsible gun owners there happens to be one, just one, who isn’t responsible and doesn’t store a gun properly? How about if one person pulls a gun in a dispute and then many do?

How many Newtowns do there have to be before these pro-gun groups realize that, thanks to uneven and inadequate gun ownership laws around the country, there are too many gun owners who have no business with firearms?

Are these vehement advocates so insecure that they can’t bear the thought that some gun owner would have to go unarmed to the State Fair? Are they afraid some age-guesser or midway barker might get out of control?

It’s absurd even to be having this discussion and shameful that gun-rights groups are actually proud of a bad law. Troxler, who is popular with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, said some have told him in private that the law was not intended or expected to loosen up the rules at the State Fair.

And Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law (even if he had vetoed it, GOP lawmakers would have overridden him), should step up here and forcefully support Troxler.

A State Fair tradition

One of the traditions of the State Fair is that lawmakers and everyone else leave the running of the fair exclusively in the hands of the agriculture commissioner.

It makes sense. The commissioner’s office knows more about the operation than anyone else and oversees safety issues. Subverting Troxler’s authority is an insult to him and opens the possibility that he’ll be second-guessed on other issues in the future.

The commissioner says he’ll get the word out that gun owners are to leave their firearms stowed in their cars. If gun-rights advocates succeed in their plans to ensure the right to carry at the fairground through legal means, the commissioner acknowledges he’ll have to allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns to the fair.

Troxler stands nothing to gain with Republicans by saying gun owners should not carry at the State Fair, so his courage in standing by previous policy is all the more admirable. If only other leaders had the gumption to stand up for common sense, the state would be better off and the State Fair would be safer.

The General Assembly should recognize the flaws in the law and add sensible restrictions. But that, of course, would require them to stand up to the gun lobby.