By Barry Merrill
The emotional issue of gun control split Faison’s Town Board last Wednesday, forcing the town’s mayor to break a tie. The town will be posting signs prohibiting any weapons at the town’s Recreation Center or other town buildings.
The vote and a long debate followed a presentation by Detective Ben Parrish of the Duplin Sheriff’s Department on the growing debate over growing gun violence. This was all a part of the regular town monthly meeting.
Mayor Carolyn Kenyon raised the issue last month that the town’s gym had become a so-called soft target because it prohibits concealed carry. Town Clerk Sharon Lee worried about her safety in the town hall. After a long discussion last month, the board agreed to further study the issue and to invite Det. Parrish to speak on the topic.
Det. Parrish, who speaks across the county on protecting churches and other facilities, spoke as a law enforcement officer who is permitted to carry a weapon at all times, and does. He also is a parent concerned about safety in the Faison gym where his children participate.
He downplayed the no guns making facilities a soft target argument. He said in most incidents of gun violence, the perpetrator wants to get in and get out quickly. The soft targets are individuals not prepar4ed to react. He said they want to avoid a confrontation.
Town Commissioner Billy Ward acknowledged that he had a concealed carry permit, and suggested that signs would not prevent some from still carrying.
Det. Parrish said no signs would allow open carry of weapons, under state law, under most circumstances. While suggesting that law enforcement legally would still carry and some concealed carry would still carry despite the signs, the signage would stop most open carry and discourage some concealed carry.
Mrs. Lee pointed out that there is an 18 year old who uses the town’s gym who regularly carries a weapon legally.
Mr. Ward’s motion to not post any signs failed to gain a second.
Commissioner Danny Blackburn, who is a law enforcement officer in Wallace and is involved in the town’s recreation committee, initially suggested the town leave the signs as they are, but on the town attorney’s urging, moved to change signage to the recommended “No weapons, concealed or otherwise, with definitions of what a weapon is.” Commissioner Melba Brewer seconded.
Commissioner Juan-Carlos Quintanilla at first abstained from voting, but when told his abstention would be counted as a “yes” vote, reluctantly agreed to vote against. He also acknowledged he has a concealed carry permit.
With Commissioner Sherry Franklin absent from the meeting, that set up a tie vote. Mayor Kenyon, who initially suggested the signs come down, voted to put the new signs up.