Photo by George Lauby
Sign at Cody Park (click on image to enlarge).
Photo by George Lauby
Small signs in two city parks prompted Chuck Matson to address the North Platte city council Thursday.
Matson, who holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon, wants to be sure he and hundreds of other permit holders in town are not disenfranchised by the signs, which prohibit concealed weapons in city parks.
Matson spoke during the time reserved for public comments at the end of the council meeting.
“We are the good guys,” Matson told the Bulletin earlier. “We’ve been through a long, ardent process to obtain a concealed carry permit.”
Matson expressed his displeasure to the council and said he'd been actively trying to amend an outdated city ordinance for many months. He said two state laws, including one passed in 2009, make the city prohibition of guns in city parks null and void for those with a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Matson reminded the council that the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms and the Nebraska Constitution says that right shall not be infringed.
After Matson spoke, five other people also asked the council to change the ordinance, which was adopted in 1975.
Jamie Jones, 2804 W. 2nd, said people must have the ability to defend themselves everywhere, be it from a dog or a human assailant. He said permit holders have been trained in firearm safety and the law.
Tom Hagert, 1214 W. 6th, said state and federal parks allow people with concealed carry permits to enter. If the city wouldn't allow permit holders to enter and they were injured, the city should be liable for damages, he said.
Many who hold concealed carry permits served their country in the military, one man told Mayor Marc Kaschke in a discussion after the meeting.
Matson, who works at Bailey Yard, served in the military for 11 and a half years and had top-secret clearance. Still, it took him 45 days to get his concealed carry permit -- an example of the rigorous process to earn the permit, he said.
Matson estimates 700-1,000 North Platte residents hold concealed carry permits.
Matson has talked to Mayor Marc Kaschke, City Administrator Jim Hawks, Assistant Police Chief Jim Agler and City Attorney Doug Stack. He said he thought everyone agreed that the city ordinance does not apply to people with concealed carry permits, and was surprised when 8.5 x 11-inch laminated signs appeared near the entrances to Centennial and Cody parks a few days ago. The small signs are not readily apparent, and no one has officially explained how they got there.
Matson wants the council to look at the situation.
“We want the council to thoroughly vet what’s going on,” Matson told the Bulletin Tuesday, “to understand the state law, and to realize that such signs would only affect those who wouldn’t follow the law anyway. The illegal element would take a look at a sign and ignore it.”
Parts of this report was first published June 20 in the print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.