On Monday night the Forsyth County Board Commissioners voted 4-3 to change the County’s existing ordinance relating to the public’s ability to carry concealed weapons at Tanglewood Park. The amendment was made as an answer to recent legislation from Raleigh which removed the right of cities and counties to regulate their own parks and recreation facilities. Monday’s decision is not final and the amendment must pass an additional reading on October 14th, but it clear that the ordinance will pass with Commissioner Bill Whiteheart obviously in control of the Republican voting block of Whisenhunt, Baker, and Lineville. Republican Dave Plyler has, of late, been a voice of reason and has not allowed his votes to simply become partisan rubber stamps while Democrats Everette Witherspoon and Walter Marshall are clearly dug into the role of insurgent opposition.
One citizen spoke against the measure- Noah Reynolds, a recent candidate for City Council in the Northwest Ward. Reynolds is also the great-grandson of City Father RJ Reynolds and the great grandnephew of William Neal Reynolds who originally donated the land on which Tanglewood Park sits. Reynolds did not take a simplistic, gun control angle, rather he pointed out that the new regulation could very well violate the 2nd Amendment rights of those who carry their side-arms openly and in a legal fashion. In his comments Reynolds said:
“My single point is that the State of North Carolina, by having two different classes of gun holders, who enjoy different rights, with respect to access to the same place, infringes upon our Federally guaranteed right to bear arms, which is precisely why I am opposed to its adoption by Forsyth County with respect to Tanglewood Park. We do have a choice!”
Mr. Reynolds concluded his remarks by bringing up the issue of local control which Commissioner Walter Marshall also found troubling. According to Reynolds:
“My personal preference is to have no guns in parks of any kind and to have the municipality provide sanctioned and armed security for its citizens who choose to be in the park with the tax dollars that these citizens have provided to them and who, by a vote of their local government representatives, have agreed to this arrangement, rather than an arrangement being imposed upon them by a foreign State government that provides no financial support (tax dollars) to the citizens and government of the municipality.”
Reynolds also referenced language in the paperwork of the original property donation which could be “quirky” and could effect the ownership status of Tanglewood if certain conditions were changed. Conditions, as Mr. Reynolds implied, like allowing concealed firearms onto the property. As Reynolds spoke, Commissioner Whiteheart rolled his eyes, clearly annoyed at the comments.
Following Reynolds remarks, Commissioner Plyler asked the County Attorney if there was “quirky” language in the bequeathment. She indicated that there had been, but that there had been some “litigation” over the matter and Forsyth County had since purchased the property outright. The County’s own website for Tanglewood Park still claims that the property now designated as the park was donated by William Neal Reynolds. “In the end it was a purchase.” stated the County Attorney.
“We spend a lot of money on Tanglewood Park. Not the State… us.” stated Commissioner Witherspoon before the vote.
“What they’re doing is saying, ‘You’re gonna have to pay for it, but you have no right to regulate it… I’m not going to vote for another dime for Tanglewood Park if the state is going to tell us what to do with it.” said Walter Marshall after Commissioner Bill Whiteheart tried to end the debate on the issue by calling for “The question” and saying that he would “Wait patiently.” This was over-ruled by Chairman Linville and Walter Marshall was able to make his comments and ask the County Attorney if anyone might have grounds to sue the state over the unfunded mandate (The State allows for guns, but provides no money for extra security.)
Beyond the issue of local control, Commissioner Witherspoon brought up the issue of marketing. Witherspoon said that a lot of money had been pumped into Tanglewood Park in hopes of making it “revenue neutral” or hopefully even a money-making tourist draw for Forsyth County. “I can guarantee you that having guns at a swimming pool is not marketing by any stretch of the imagination.” Witherspoon contended that people will not take their children to a facility in which there will be concealed fire arms- and no one will know who is packing.
A former Sheriff’s Deputy who has worked security at Tanglewood Park told CCD that when he has worked events at Tanglewood that include alcohol there have always been problems with security. “I’ve been in fights every time.” he said pointing out that the probability of something truly awful happening at Tanglewood is increased by the introduction of concealed firearms.
In spite of the opposition voiced and questions raised, Whiteheart had his four person voting block firmly lined up and once debate was stopped they dutifully raised their hands in adoption of the policy change to allow concealed-carry of guns in Forsyth County’s parks.