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Guns central issue in Morrisville mayoral election

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Along with allowing concealed weapons in bars and restaurants where alcohol is served, North Carolina's sweeping new gun laws trump the authority of municipalities to regulate concealed handguns in city parks, recreational facilities and on public playgrounds. And now guns have become an issue in Morrisville town elections.

Last week, the National Rifle Association-PVF, a political action committee in Halifax, Va., asked Holcombe to complete a candidate questionnaire "used to determine a candidate's NRA rating, which is then communicated to NRA members."

"I'm not going to be filling it out," Holcombe said. "Why a political action committee from Fairfax, Va., would be interested in the Morrisville mayoral race, I can't answer."

The NRA did not reply to the INDY's request for comment.

Holcombe said she has received "a number of cut and paste emails" from people outside of the Triangle, saying that her position is restricting their rights as legal gun owners. She also has been reviled on gun blogs such as freenorthcarolina.blogspot.com and ncgunowners.com.

After the Newtown massacre, Holcombe wrote to the CEO of Gander Mountain Company Inc.— an outdoor recreation store with a Morrisville location, which carries assault weapons—asking him to consider not carrying the specific style of assault weapon used in the shooting.

"I really thought about the similarities between Morrisville and Newtown," Holcombe said. "Families feel safe in Morrisville like they did in Newtown, and I wonder if there is anything else I can do. The majority of my constituents support Second Amendment rights to own guns, but they also strongly support playground safety, and having guns on playgrounds, they don't see as safe."

Municipalities were allowed to prohibit concealed weapons in their recreational space in 2012, and many updated ordinances to reflect such restrictions.

The Morrisville Town Council, for example, voted 6–1 last summer to update an ordinance to outlaw concealed weapons on playgrounds. However, because of the state law, the ordinance is no longer valid. Morrisville Town Council voted Tuesday evening to comply with the statute.

"I don't agree that that authority should be in the hands of the state," says Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe. "I think that authority belongs to the municipalities."

Holcombe said she thinks carrying concealed weapons in public spaces is a safety issue, not a constitutional one. "Accidents happen," Holcombe said, citing the mother who accidentally shot herself in a Wake Forest Staples store while trying to stop her 2-year-old from reaching for a handgun in her purse. "They happen to concealed-carry permit holders and they happen to those of us who don't have them. This was a common sense measure that would lessen the risk of those accidents impacting children."

Town Council Member Mark Stohlman, one of Holcombe's opponents in the mayoral race, said at a candidate forum last week that he supports the right to bring concealed guns onto playgrounds and into city parks.

"Morrisville is out of sync with state law," Stohlman said in a phone interview. "Most towns make administrative changes to their own policy, and that is how it should be. Our pledge is to uphold and obey the constitutional law of the United States and North Carolina."

Holcombe's other opponent, Narendra Singh, said at the forum that coming from India, as did Gandhi, he doesn't believe in violence. But Singh acknowledged that people have the constitutional right to own a weapon.

Holcombe says she is unhappy with the focus of the mayoral race. "It's become less about land use and property taxes, more about guns on playgrounds."

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