Thursday, October 9, 2014

GRNC Seeks Injunction Against Posting Of NC State Fair

North Carolina's Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler (R-NC) is the official in charge of the State Fair held in Raleigh. This year, for some reason, he held a press conference announcing that it would be policy to post the State Fair against concealed carry by properly permitted CHP holders. His argument is that this is just a continuation of how things have always been.

The Criminal Law blog of the UNC School of Government has looked at this issue and it appears that Commissioner Troxler is on very shaky ground. The State Fair isn't a private business nor is it a unit of local government which might allow him to do it. As it is, the law is very specific that CHP holders are allowed to carry at assemblies where a fee is charged. Moreover, state law specifies which state government buildings that are posted including such places as the Executive Mansion and the State Capitol Building. The State Fair is not one of the buildings mention.

Given that state laws regarding firearms and where they may be carried legally has changed considerably in the last few years, this is an odd move on the part of Troxler. In response, Grass Roots North Carolina is going to court seeking an injunction to stop Troxler from posting the State Fair. The State Fair runs from October 16th through the 26th so time is of the essence.

Gun group to file injunction against state fair posting today
Due to an impasse in negotiations with North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Grass Roots North Carolina will today file  for a temporary restraining order in Wake County Superior Court with the intention of preventing the Department of Agriculture from posting the state fair against lawful concealed carry.

At the request of North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, GRNC representatives met with the commissioner and his legal counsel after his police chief for the state fairgrounds, Joel Keith, began telling people the North Carolina State Fair would be posted against all firearms, including lawful concealed carry. Although Troxler is not particularly anti-gun, he seems unwilling to take responsibility for doing the right thing, saying instead that as a member of the executive branch, he cannot interpret statutes and must follow the interpretations given to him (more on that shortly). 

Consequently, the commissioner and GRNC were unable to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the problem. GRNC is now preparing a filing for a temporary restraining order, through its sister non-profit, Rights Watch International, to prevent the fair, which starts next week, from being posted.

Before passage of House Bill 937, which became effective on October 1, 2013, guns were prohibited at “assemblies of people for which admission is charged.” Since that section of NCGS 14-269.3 was changed to permit carry by those with concealed handgun permits, however, only private property owners hosting such assemblies may prohibit concealed carry. The state fairgrounds, of course, are not private property.

Although NCGS 14-269.3 specifically opens carry to permit-holders, Troxler claims “vague” language in the statutes enables the state to post under NCGS 14-269(a2), which says the state’s general prohibition on concealed weapons, “does not apply to a person who has a concealed handgun permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter, has a concealed handgun permit considered valid under G.S. 14-415.24, or is exempt from obtaining a permit pursuant to G.S. 14-415.25, provided the weapon is a handgun, is in a closed compartment or container within the person's locked vehicle, and the vehicle is in a parking area that is owned or leased by State government.”
  1. The section above merely enables permit-holders to keep guns in closed compartments of locked motor vehicles in state properties where guns are prohibited. It does not create a prohibition in itself.
  1. In fact, NCGS 14-269.4 lists the specific state properties – such as the State Capitol, Governor’s Executive Mansion” and courthouses – where guns are prohibited. That section does not include the state fairgrounds.

  1. Even in the exceedingly unlikely event a court agreed that Troxler is allowedto post the fair, nothing requires him to do so. In short, his rationalization that he is just following what he has to do is false. Troxler is choosing to prohibit lawful concealed handgun permit-holders from protecting their families not only at the fair, but also in the parking lots outside the fair.

As we’ve seen time and again, gun-free zones are dangerous places for law-abiding citizens. No family should be rendered entirely helpless should an event occur such as what happened at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2011. Dozens of teenagers and young adults attacked peaceful fairgoers as they left the fair. Eleven people were injured and thirty-one arrests were made. Criminals are always empowered when they know that their intended victims are disarmed.

I will keep on top of this to report on what the court's decide. It should be interesting.

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