thought long and hard about how to title this article. In the end, I took a page from the Fox News playbook with the idea that Incendiary Sells. Aw, c’mon, you clicked it didn’t you? Worked.
I changed the original title after publication from “Albemarle Town Council Willfully Violates NC 2nd Amendment” to the new title, which I think more apt after further research.
Read on. You’ll find it interesting if you care anything about firearms legislation. Let me recap for you so I can bring you up to speed. Around 2 in the morning on 4/18 I was unwinding; reading the news before going to bed. I clicked the local news section and came across an article written by Shannon Beamon for the Stanly News and Press (SNAP for short) titled “Council approves operation of ‘adult arcade’ on U.S. 52.”
In all honesty, the term “adult arcade” was what got my attention. What in the world is an adult arcade and why would we want one? Curious to find out more I read the article.
You can find it here: Council approves operation of ‘adult arcade’ on U.S. 52.
If you take a moment to read the article, you’ll notice the additional rules the town council set on the business’ permit. Being a firearms instructor, I took notice of the very last one, which reads “the business cannot allow firearms.”
Wait a minute. What? Did I read that right?
Before writing the author to inquire I took a moment to research the NC Department of Justice training standards we, as concealed carry instructors, use to train students. Sure enough, the ruling was there. (I won’t mention it here because you’re about to read it anyway.) I took another minute to cross-reference with the North Carolina General Assembly website.
Rather than go on to bed and stay awake all night curious about it, I emailed the staff writer who posted the article to get their take on the piece; mainly to see if I was missing something not self-evident in the article. Her response makes me hot under the collar – not at her, but at the gall of the Albemarle Town Council, and presumably at Martha Sue Hall, Mayor Pro-Tem of Albemarle.
My letter to the editor:
I was reading your article titled “Council approves operation of ‘adult arcade’ on U.S. 52” (http://www.thesnaponline.com/news/council-approves-operation-of-adult-arcade-on-u-s/article_4f8bb9d0-1fba-11e7-b720-63956e2ad045.html) tonight and one of the council’s rules struck me as odd, specifically the last one mentioned in your article – that
the business cannot allow firearms.
As a firearms instructor that teaches NC Concealed Carry courses, this seemed to run afoul of the December 2015 latest revisions of NC Firearms Laws. I took a few minutes tonight to refresh my research and I’ll share my results below.
I’ll cite the source:
The document is located on the NC DOJ servers and is available at:
I’d direct your attention to the very last line of page 22, and the first paragraph of page 23 which read “North Carolina General Statute § 14-415.23 provides that no political subdivisions, boards, or agencies of the State nor any county, city, municipality, municipal corporation, town, township, village, nor any department or agency thereof, may enact ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun.”
This ordinance, mentioned on the DOJ website actually references a NC General Assembly ruling, which you can read here:
It states the intent and full scope of the statement in clearer terms and says:
“§ 14-415.23. Statewide uniformity.
(a) It is the intent of the General Assembly to prescribe a uniform system for the regulation of legally carrying a concealed handgun. To insure uniformity, no political subdivisions, boards, or agencies of the State nor any county, city, municipality, municipal corporation, town, township, village, nor any department or agency thereof, may enact ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun. A unit of local government may adopt an ordinance to permit the posting of a prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun, in accordance with G.S. 14-415.11(c), on local government buildings and their appurtenant premises.”
This comes up all the time in classes we teach – where students can and cannot carry, and one of the things we teach is the change to handgun laws in recent years. It’s one of the most-often discussed portions of the class. Of specific mention in class is the 2013 change that was enacted that specifically prevents towns, municipalities, etc from enacting such laws. Since both the NC Department of Justice and the North Carolina General Assembly both clearly state this to be law, unless the adult arcade in question is located inside a government facility or contains a government office within its building, which it doesn’t (I checked a map), then there’s no way this ruling can be valid. The town council cannot attach a no-firearms policy to their permission to allow this business to operate in this space.
This has nothing to do with my personal feelings on whether we should or shouldn’t have an “adult arcade” in Albemarle. I personally don’t care either way but I’m surprised it made it through both the town council AND a news cycle from SNAP with no one else catching this glaring error.
If you have the time, I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter. You can respond via email or mobile phone, both of which are listed below if you have any questions or comments.
Thanks for your time!
*contact info redacted*
The next day
At the dinging sound of a new email I glanced over to my surprise to find a response from miss Shannon early this afternoon. I’ll post her response here in its entirety so you can see for yourself she is merely reporting the facts as she knows them – not interpreting news to mean anything other than what she wrote- for which I applaud her.
Her response was:
Thanks for reaching out about this issue. The city council did actually note the NC Firearms Laws at the meeting. However, they were unsure how that legislation would apply to this exact situation (especially since some of it’s provisions are being reviewed right now, I believe). As such, councilors added language to the conditional-use permit that nullifies any specifications deemed contradictory to state laws.
Would that seem acceptable by what you know of the firearms laws? And I apologize that part of the meeting did not make it into the story. Due to spacing limits in our paper, I was not able to incorporate the lengthy explanation that little tidbit would take. I’m sure the adult arcades will come up in future stories as well; hopefully I can incorporate it into one of those.
The Stanly News & Press
Think, Tommy.. just think.
I sat back and stewed on this new information for a few minutes. I appreciated miss Beamon’s candor and bear her no ill will, but the more I thought about it, the more angry I got at the town council. You don’t have to be an attorney to understand basic law as it applies to this situation, especially when it’s a statutory law codified by the NC General Assembly specifically to make it simple to understand.
At this point, after already having made a Facebook post about my first letter to the author, I decided it was time to bring this to a new platform where I could track the conversation easier than I can on Facebook. Hence, this blog post was written.
I took a few minutes to compose my thoughts and write Shannon back. As of this time she has no idea about this editorial, but I’ll let her know about it the next time she responds, if she has the time.
This was my response:
Hey. Thanks for writing back.
I guess it depends on what you mean by “being reviewed right now.” If you’re referring to the recent articles regarding the NC Dems trying to change the concealed carry law to remove some of the freedoms the 2013 ruling put in place, that’s not really a review… it’s the same attempt they’ve made every year since the law went into practice. They’re not even really pushing to get it through anymore, just making their token effort to put it on the ballot knowing it will get shot down. Gun owners get up in arms about it every year and I have to tell them every year to look back at LAST YEAR’s Facebook posts… yup.. same thing happened the same time last year. Lol. Dems are catering to their base by saying “We tried” and they did… it just doesn’t ever change. So using the issue of “its currently under review” doesn’t hold water. It’s like saying “I know I was arrested for smoking marijuana, but the legality of that is currently under review so let’s wait a few years and see whether or not I did anything wrong.”
If you’re referring to other legislation I’m not aware of, then I’d love to be enlightened. I haven’t heard anything about reviews to gun laws that would affect municipalities being discussed aside from the one I mentioned before, but yes, it would change my stance on the issue.
But if what you’re saying is true, then someone DID bring it up, and then they discussed it, and then they STILL tried to push it through. Some would see it as “Well, the provision to not contradict other laws means it’s not really a rule, so we can ignore it.”
Ok, but that begs the following:
- Does the business owner know he’s been had unenforceable stipulations added to his conditional permit? And if so, why hasn’t he demanded they be removed? (The logical answer is that he’s too concerned about not getting the permit at all to make any waves, so he’s holding his breath hoping he can even get the permit in the first place.)
- Consider another example that’s far-fetched but would have the same repercussions. Suppose the town council said they can’t have any blacks or Mexicans working in the establishment. Well, surely that’s going to ignite someone’s ire, but don’t worry.. we knew it wasn’t enforceable when we included it… so you have nothing to worry about… Would that go over just as silently you think? We all know the civil rights act of 1974 covers that, so the provision not to interfere with other laws would preclude it. Doesn’t mean someone still isn’t trying to overreach and put legislation where it doesn’t belong.
If it was me (and I’m glad it’s not) the next article would read “Albemarle Council violates NC handgun statute, but says it’s OK since it’s unenforceable.” Then again, the more I learn about this, the more it MIGHT be me writing that article. Lol.
The ethical thing to do would be to remove the provision regarding firearms altogether. They already have a rule that says they can add other conditions later, so they already have a loophole to add it back in later. Why step on the NC legislature at all if you don’t have to? There is no sensible reason to put that in there – especially if someone brought it up and they discussed it. If it made it as far as a discussion and the people responsible for making these decisions don’t know enough to interpret a one-paragraph-long NC statute, they shouldn’t be on the council at all.
Is there any way to get a listing of who made the vote, what the full stipulations were, etc?
I only ask because your article mentions how seriously the council is taking this conditional permit. They come right out and state their concerns that this could be an issue that sets precedent for other permits in the future so they want to be sure they do it right – but then they intentionally did it wrong. As a citizen of this town, that would leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I look forward to your reply if you’ve got the time. I’m sure you’re busy. Thanks for what you’ve shared thus far.
And that’s where we are at this moment.
If you’re curious about what I think Shannon meant about the gun laws currently being reviewed, I’ll give you an example of one of the articles on the subject from WNCT news. The article is titled “NC may reconsider stand your ground law“. I can only assume this is the “review” to the laws they’re referencing in their decision to proceed with the permit restriction regarding firearms.
However, House Bill 723 – also knows as the Gun Safety Act, is the 2017 regurgitation of the same bill they tried to pass in years past. To be honest, they’re not even really trying to get this one through anymore, but as I mentioned previously in my email to Shannon, are paying lip service to their base constituents by tossing it back on the discussion board year after year.
If you’d like to examine my sources, they are as follows:
- Information about House Bill 723 (2017/2018 session)
- The full text of HB 723
- Information about House Bill 725 (2015/2016 session)
- The full text of HB 725
Any time spent at all comparing the two documents will reveal they are identical in intent, and almost identical in verbiage. This is just the annual “Let’s pretend to REALLY want to fight the 2nd amendment in a state where we know damned well it won’t fly” attempt.
Where this leaves me
At this point, it leaves me ready to run for town council simply to be sure someone on the council understands the law! I have absolutely zero personal knowledge about Mayor Pro Temp Martha Sue Hall, but she seems to be the one quoted a lot on the issue, so my ire starts with her.
When I thought the town council was merely ignorant of the law and too stupid to have looked it up before codifying an illegal addendum to this mans business permit, I was left shaking my head in disappointment.
When I instead discovered that not only did they know it, but had actually discussed and then proceeded to go ahead an put the wording in the permit regardless my attitude changed to incensed!
If you willingly put wording into a conditional permit that the business owner likely has no idea is illegal and then just hope no one says anything about it, that’s not only illegal, but unethical and you have no business on ANY council, especially Deputy Mayor.
To be clear, the governor’s ruling in 2013 specifically stated that NOBODY writes gun laws but the state of NC.
On to related issues –
Do I really think that an adult arcade has any reason to want firearms on their property?
Nope. I have no idea how they would prefer to conduct their business, but I DO know that having someone tell you you can’t do something simply because they don’t want you to isn’t right.
Are guns any more unsafe in an adult arcade than let’s say the bar at Applebees?
I can carry my firearm into Applebees and sit at the bar with my wife and she can drink to her heart’s content. I can too, as long as there’s no alcohol in mine. I can carry in the pizza place down the street. I carry in Food Lion, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Tractor Supply, hell when I take my wife to the nail salon… why would an arcade be any more dangerous a location than any of those?
Do I know the owner of this proposed business?
No. I don’t know him, haven’t ever met him, and have absolutely zero interest in his business enterprise. I just don’t like seeing people get railroaded by the government in any form when the law is clearly on the business-owner’s side.
As of this time I’ve had no further response from Miss Shannon Beamon. I might and I might not, and wouldn’t hold it against her either way. She might very well not feel like getting herself involved in this any more than she already is. If that’s the case I wouldn’t blame her. I, however, am not one to shy from a fight when the law is on the little guy’s side, so I’m going to make my very best effort to be sure that SOMEONE has that text removed from that man’s conditional permit. Until such time as the laws of the Great State of North Carolina change and allow tiny town councils to enact firearms legislation, they need to keep their noses out of business they don’t understand.
There could exist the possibility that there is indeed some business-related reason for a no-firearms policy at this establishment, but nothing made publicly available at this time makes it evident. If, at a later time, I find that to be the case, I will gladly apologize and correct this article. Until such time as that happens however, I intend to share this around the community until the people involved get back in touch with me and explain themselves to my satisfaction.
Item 1 – I managed to locate the agenda of the Town Council meeting held on April 3rd. The link is:
Item 2 – The quasi-judicial hearing for permit #17-001 (the one for the adult arcade)
Item 3 – Memo to City Council for permit 17-001 (this is apparently where they got the idea for no firearms) regarding §92.080
Item 4 – §92.087 ELECTRONIC GAMING OPERATIONS – this was a previous statute (written in 2010) and was used as a template from which to create the current regulations on the permit.
Author’s Edit #2
So with some Google-Fu, I was able to locate the video recording of the entire town council session that covered the issue at hand. I watched the portion related to this particular permit in its entirety.
If you want to watch it yourself, the link below starts at the beginning of his hearing.
Some notes about the video:
24:30 Council asks David Chen what restrictions, referencing the previous gaming regulations, he might want to add. He didn’t mention anything about firearms regulations.
27:22 Council asks about food or alcohol. None will be served on the premises.
33:00: Martha Sue Hall mentions wanting to be sure they set this precedent correctly now, to save headaches in future applications.
34:55 The older gentleman at the end says “We don’t want firearms in there.” Someone asked if that was permissible to put in there. Counsel thinks a no-firearms law is reasonable. (What? NO ONE in the entire council knows anything about this?)
42:52: End of discussion
In the end, I’m not sure who I’m disappointed in more. Is it the fact that we have a town council completely ignorant of NC’s 2nd Amendment laws? Is it the fact that we have someone that thinks it’s OK to say “Well, we don’t want guns in there..” as a legislative discussion point, or is the fact that even counsel seemed to have no idea as to the applicability of the law to the business permit? I mean this is your thing… zoning. You should know this stuff.
So I’m modifying my tone, if not my reproachful position, a little bit. I don’t think, after reviewing all the footage, this was a willful disregard for the law, but it IS an illegal stipilation and I’ll do my dangdest to be sure the council knows exactly where they can and can NOT apply their whims. The 2A is off limits to municipalities in NC until the Governor’s office makes a new decree.
Apparently this article garnered some attention on the local level. According to an article in the SNAP (the local paper I read the original article in) the town council met again later to discuss the permit. As a result of this blog article and you viewers sharing it, the council modified the conditional permit and took out the firearms rule. The council also said they’d strive to be more conscientious about firearms laws in the future.
If you’d like to read the follow-up article, the link is here: “Albemarle shoots down gun restriction”
My sincerest thanks go out to:
- the readers that commented and shared this article.
- Shannon Beamon, the reporter that took the time to respond and help me clarify things to the council’s benefit.
- The Town Council for coming back to the table and removing the restriction from the conditional permit.
As this is the first conditional permit of its type in Stanly County, this will set the precedent for any future businesses with this model, so it’s important we get it right from the beginning.
Thanks to all of you that shared your support!