A sign that mysteriously appeared two months ago in Cody Park. No one will say who posted it.
After a lot of discussion Tuesday, the city council tabled a proposed ordinance to allow qualified people to carry concealed weapons in parks and recreation areas.
The ordinance would have clarified a 1975 city ordinance that prohibits all guns in city parks.
Critics say that ordinance restricts the right of people who obtain a state permit to carry a concealed weapon.
The council chambers were full and the crowd spilled into the hallway. No one from the public spoke at the meeting, bu most of those in attendance seemed to favor allowing guns in the parks.
The council discussed the proposal at length, which would continue to prohibit weapons in parks, except for law officers and concealed-carry permit holders.
Councilman Larry Campbell said the proposal still would not cover all the bases.
“It does not allow for anyone other than permit holders to have a firearm in the city parks,” Campbell said. “What about those farmers and ranchers and out-of-town visitors that regularly have a firearm in their vehicle as part of their lifestyle?”
An adult is allowed to carry unconcealed weapons nearly everywhere, unless a property owner, city or school prohibits it.
Campbell said the wording needs more work.
“Let’s do it right the first time,” he said.
Councilman Jim Carman agreed, but said an adequate ordinance would have to cover so many different situations that it would be beyond the city’s ability to write.
City Attorney Doug Stack noted another weakness in the proposed ordinance. Stack said it does not allow weapons in the recreation center, where martial arts students sometimes train with weapons.
Carman raised applause from the audience when he asked “why have an ordinance at all?”
“Strike the old ordinance and just not have one,” Carman said. “There are too many scenarios to try and draft something to cover them all, and state law covers concealed-carry anyway.”
State law allows concealed weapons to be carried everywhere, including parks, by permit holders, unless property owners prohibit it.
Campbell and Councilwoman Judy Pederson agreed with Carman's suggestion.
Councilmembers raised two questions that went unanswered.
Councilmand Tim Barrett noted that signs were posted in mid-June near the entrances of Cody and Centennial parks, proclaiming the old, 1975 city prohibition of weapons in the parks. Barrett asked why the signs suddenly appeared, after Nebraska’s concealed carry laws had been in effect for five years.
And, he asked who decided to put them up.
He got no answers.
Pederson asked if council approval is required to post such signs.
To that question, Stack said no.
Pederson asked if anything happened in the parks that caused the signs to be posted, or if anyone had been hurt in the last five years by a weapon.
North Platte Deputy Police Chief Jim Agler spoke up from the audience. He said there had been absolutely no issues of that kind.
Councilman Martin Steinbeck again raised applause throughout the room when he said the proposed city ordinance should be considered unnecessary. Steinbeck said the 1975 city ordinance should be repealed, allowing state law to take precedence.
Councilman Dan McGuire moved to table action on the ordinance until the council meets again in two weeks, to allow for more awareness of the difficulties of a new ordinance, as well as more discussion of viewpoints.
The council agreed, 8-0.
North Platte Chuck Matson, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, originally brought the issue to city officials months ago. He told the Bulletin on Tuesday morning that the discussion has come full circle and he is glad that the council is leaning toward letting the state law govern where guns can be carried in North Platte.
"Exactly what I suggested in the very beginning," he said. "I was told at the beginning that there would not be enough support. (But) I'm very glad Councilman Carman argued for it."
In other action, the council:
• Approved a 375-foot sewer extension district near West 19th.
• Authorized a preliminary agreement for a bike path along the NPPD canal from I-80 south to Walker Road at a cost of $61,621.
• Approved a written inter-local agreement with county officials to share and trade road maintenance jobs on the edge of town.