WRAL.com at the State Fair

Pro-gun group to challenge state fair gun ban

Posted September 30, 2014 8:07 p.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2014 10:31 p.m. EDT

— Deep-fried anything may be allowed at the N.C. State Fair, but guns are not, and now a pro-gun group plans to sue the state to allow those with concealed-carry permits to bring their weapons onto the state fairgrounds.

The long-standing ban was reiterated Tuesday by state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, one day after Grass Roots North Carolina representatives said they met with him about the issue.

“We are not concerned about a law-abiding citizen coming onto the fairgrounds and doing intentional harm,” Troxler said. “But we are concerned about accidental discharge. You don't want to take a chance on this happening if you can avoid it, and thus, our decision.”

The dispute centers on House Bill 937, which outlines the state’s firearms law. Changes to the measure were made in 2013, passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The law, in part, reads:

It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, or carry, whether openly or concealed, any deadly weapon, not used solely for instructional or officially sanctioned ceremonial purposes in the State Capitol Building, the Executive Mansion, the Western Residence of the Governor, or on the grounds of any of these buildings, and in any building housing any court of the General Court of Justice.

GRNC says the measure doesn’t exclude the state fairgrounds, meaning legal gun possession should be allowed at the state fair.

But the measure also reads:

This subsection shall not be construed to permit a person to carry a concealed handgun on any premises where the person in legal possession or control of the premises has posted a conspicuous notice prohibiting the carrying of a concealed handgun on the premises.

GRNC believes the above passage only applies to private property owners. They point out that the state fairgrounds is public property.

"We just want to carry as the law permits us to carry so that we can protect our loved ones in the case that a criminal chooses to not follow the law and cause a problem and threaten the safety of our families," said Josette Chmiel with Grass Roots NC. "We all want to be safe. Don't take away our right to be safe."

Troxler said the measure has gray areas and intends to uphold the ban until a judge or lawmakers say otherwise.

Metal detectors will be at each entrance, and those with guns will be asked to leave their firearms in their cars, Troxler said.