Grassroots North Carolina (GRNC) sent a letter to Asheville on Wednesday stating that signs placed outside of entire municipal parks are in violation of the state’s concealed-carry laws and that the city would face legal action if the signs are not removed.
“If the City of Asheville fails to revise its ordinance to comply with state law, our non-profit sister organization, Rights Watch International, will recruit plaintiffs from Asheville (where we have had a large number of volunteers) to pursue litigation against the City for declaratory and injunctive relief, and seek damages plus the recovery of attorney’s fees and court costs,” the letter said.
Under a North Carolina law that went live Dec. 1, 2015, a citizen who has been “adversely affected by any ordinance, rule or regulation” that violates the state’s preemption laws for firearms can bring charges against the governmental body responsible for the violation.
If found responsible, the city would be forced to pay the attorney’s fees and court costs for both parties as well as being held accountable through paying damages to the plaintiff for “declaratory and injunctive relief and for actual damages.”
“The only question is whether the City will amend its ordinances to conform to § 14-415.23, or whether a court will order it to do so after costly and distracting litigation. Please advise me, within ten business days, of which course the City chooses,” the letter said in closing.
Under a 2011 North Carolina law local, governments can only ban the carry of a legally concealed firearm in certain recreational facilities, not entire parks.
Named in the law are athletic fields and related facilities during an organized athletic event organized with the government body, swimming pools and facilities, and facilities such as gymnasiums.
In 2013 the law was updated to narrow the scope of what a “recreational facility” is.
The changes declared that greenways, biking or walking paths, open areas and fields are not recreational facilities, unless the previous qualifications for an athletic field are met.
GRNC charges that Asheville’s French Broad River Park, which contains “only a walking trail,” is posted against concealed carry.
The organization also said that other parks also have signs prohibiting concealed carry, citing images that were not included with the public press release.
The letter was specifically addressed to Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer; the Asheville City Council and Asheville City Attorney Robin Currin are listed as being copied on the email.
As of Thursday afternoon, a representative of the mayor’s office in Asheville said that the letter had not been received by the city yet.