According to Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad, the way the county is going about changing the gun laws isn’t just sloppy, it’s also sure to get the county sued.
Conrad said this week that changes under consideration for county gun law use – regarding safety berms, hours of shooting allowed, gun noise ordinances and other changes discussed – have been handled very poorly from the start and would leave the county wide open to litigation.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has two Republican commissioners – Conrad and Commissioner Alan Perdue – and seven Democratic commissioners. Right now – although no vote has been taken – this debate seems to break down largely along party lines.
“The Democrats have a 7 to 2 majority,” Conrad said, “so they are going to do what they are going to do. But if you do this, you are gonna get sued and you’re gonna lose.”
The battle came to a head on Thursday, Aug. 5 when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing to discuss potential changes in the county’s gun laws, which haven’t been touched since the mid-1980s.
That hearing packed the commissioners’ large meeting room and the balcony that overlooks it.
When Conrad found out that Guilford County was considering the changes, he researched state statute and spoke with state House Rep. Jon Hardister, who referred Conrad to a legal expert in state law. Conrad said that after asking his questions of the attorney, on staff with the NC General Assembly who frequently advises on county and state government laws, he was certain that the proposed changes overstep the authority of Guilford County and they would not hold up in court.
Conrad said the county has some limited rights to change the gun laws – for instance, it can allow or ban firearms from county government meetings. However, he added, the county doesn’t have the authority to limit hours of shooting or create a noise ordinance that applies only to firearms.
Conrad said he’s been frustrated by the way the process has gone in the reverse order of how it should have gone. He said a list of proposed changes was thrust on the county residents and then they were asked for their input. Conrad said that the proper way to have proceeded would be to have heard from the people first and then carefully craft legislation from those discussions.
Conrad has also said publicly several times that perfectly good state laws exist to address the gun safety concerns and therefore there’s no need for the county to pile more gun regulations on top of those.
Conrad said it was a question of enforcement of those state laws more than anything else, and he said he was trying to get answers as to, why, in the past, those existing laws weren’t enforced even though, in several cases, it seemed obvious they should have been.