MINUTES OF A PUBLIC HEARING HELD BY THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE
TOWN OF CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 1993
AT 7:30 P.M.
Mayor Broun called the hearing to order at 7:35 p.m. Council Members in attendance were Julie Andresen, Joyce Brown, Joe Capowski, Mark Chilton, Joe Herzenberg (arrived at 8:03 p.m.), Barbara Powell, Alan Rimer and Arthur Werner. Also in attendance were Town Manager Cal Horton, Assistant Town Managers Sonna Loewenthal and Florentine Miller, and Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos.
Noting that this evening's hearing would conclude no later than 11:00 p.m., Mayor Broun stated that the hearing might need to be continued to tomorrow evening. Council Member Werner suggested that the Council limit the number of speakers to those persons who had signed up to speak by 8:00 p.m. this evening.
Town Attorney Karpinos briefly reviewed his report to the Council, noting that the Council was limited by North Carolina General Statutes in regard to handgun regulations. Mr. Karpinos noted places where firearms could currently be prohibited. He noted that additional prohibitions were suggested, including prohibiting the possession of firearms by persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Mr. Karpinos suggested that the Council might wish to work with other local governments to seek a change to the North Carolina Constitution concerning firearms possession.
Council Member Andresen inquired whether the Council could adopt a local ordinance banning handguns. Mr. Karpinos said the State's Constitution precluded such an action. Council Member Capowski inquired whether this matter was subject to interpretation. Mr. Karpinos said his advise was consistent with the terms of the State's current laws. Council Member Werner suggested that speakers at the hearing frame their comments within the context of the Attorney's report to the Council.
Town Manager Horton briefly reviewed his report and recommendations to the Council. He stated that it would be useful to seek additional State authority concerning handgun restrictions. Mr. Horton said his preliminary recommendation was to broaden the Town's existing handgun restrictions. He also suggested the need for longer prison sentences for crimes involving the use of weapons.
Council Member Capowski said three doctors and one nurse from the University of North Carolina Hospitals were in attendance to speak about the use of handguns in the Town, the State of North Carolina and the United States.
Dr. Chip Baker, Chief of the Division of Trauma, Department of Surgery at the UNC Medical School, said that used guns were inexpensive and were often used in crimes such as robberies, assaults and rapes. Dr. Baker stated that handguns were involved in about 40% of all murders reported to the State Bureau of Investigation (S.B.I.). He briefly reviewed the age and gender distribution for murders utilizing guns. Dr. Baker also briefly reviewed a study of handgun deaths in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. He stated that although the cities were similar in many respects, the rate of handgun deaths was seven times higher in Seattle.
Dr. Marshall McCoy, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, related several stories of disgruntled persons using firearms to inflict death and injury. He noted that special security measures limited access to the emergency room at the UNC hospital and other facilities around the country. Dr. McCoy stated that the Town could become trendsetters by restricting the use of firearms.
Mayor Broun suggested that the Council consider calling on Town residents to hear their comments before non-residents. There were no objections by the Council to this procedure. Mayor Broun urged speakers to attempt to avoid repeating previous remarks. Noting that he recognized the emotionality of the issue before the Council this evening, Mayor Broun stated that the only action to be taken by the Council at the end of the hearing would be to refer the matter to the staff for a follow-up report and recommendations.
Daniel Keller, said he was both disabled and a member of the National Rifle Association. Mr. Keller expressed concern that he would have no means to defend himself if he did not have the right to possess a gun. He stated that efforts to restrict the bearing of arms would be a disservice to community residents. Mr. Keller urged the Council to protect citizen's rights to defend themselves.
Jonathan Kotch, a local pediatrician, said it was a myth that handguns were necessary to protect persons and property. He stated that individuals were generally much safer without handguns in their homes. Dr. Kotch also said it was a myth that individuals had the right to bear arms. Dr. Kotch said he had no idea why the North Carolina Constitution had been interpreted so different from the United States Constitution in this regard. He also questioned the value of educating children in the use of weapons. Dr. Kotch noted that the National Rifle Association received $8 million per year from weapons manufacturers to pay for organizational advertisements in regional and national magazines.
Rosemary Waldorf, Chair of the Law Enforcement Committee of the Violent Crime and Drug Abuse Program, expressed the committee's strong abhorrence of violence in the community. She also said the committee was working to urge local magistrates to discourage the use of weapons in the commission of crimes. Ms. Waldorf emphasized the importance of local judges requiring the use of secured appearance bonds. She stated that longer sentences were needed for crimes committed using weapons. Ms. Waldorf said the committee strongly objected to the practice of returning weapons to criminals following adjudication for crimes. She said the committee favored proceeding with the additional restrictions suggested by Town Attorney Karpinos.
John Reinhard, a Town resident for twelve years, said gun control had been tried before and did not work. He expressed concern about the ease with which illegal weapons could be procured by criminals. Mr. Reinhard suggested that the cap on prison capacity could be raised while more detention facilities were being constructed. He also said that penalties for gun-related crimes should be increased. Mr. Reinhard expressed concern that Town residents were becoming increasingly defenseless against violent crimes.
Barry Jaeger suggested that the Town study expected costs of the proposed ordinance revisions. Mr. Jaeger stated that proper training in the use of firearms could have positively changed the choices of a recent altercation in which a local resident was shot. He also said that the court system needed to more energetically prosecute criminals.
Patricia Jarrell expressed her opposition to a handgun ban. Noting that the Town's police officers could not protect all residents 24 hours per day, she emphasized the importance of vigilance concerning the locking of cars and homes. Ms. Jarrell stated that most handgun owners did not ever want to use them for protection purposes during crimes. She stated that the new ordinance offered no guarantees that violent crimes would not occur in the future. Ms. Jarrell also emphasized the importance of holding parents accountable for the actions of their children.
Rachel McFarling read a letter to the Mayor and Council on behalf of Mr. Charles E. Peterson. A copy of Mr. Peterson's remarks, opposing the proposed handgun control regulations, is on file in the Clerk's Office. Mayor Broun noted that all letters received by the Mayor and Council on the matter would be part of the meeting's record.
Bill Flythe said although he greatly valued his personal freedom, he would gladly give up the right to firearms if it would prevent their use in the commission of crimes. He emphasized the importance of exercising personal freedoms responsibly. Mr. Flythe noted his opposition to any additional Town restrictions on the personal use of firearms.
Donald Holloway said there was a need to stop gun violence. He said a handgun ban would punish the innocent while not resolving violent crime problems. Mr. Holloway also expressed concern that more stringent handgun regulations would be a potential invitation to criminals to harm innocent persons. He stated that the criminal justice system did not afford adequate protection to individuals.
Kenneth Filer said he opposed further gun control ordinances in the Town. He added that greater enforcement of existing Town regulations was needed.
Mark Plasko expressed concern about the increased incidence of violent crime and the light sentences imposed on violent criminals. Mr. Plasko also expressed concern about the possible implementation of additional handgun restrictions for law-abiding citizens. He emphasized the need to send a message about the importance of citizens having the right to defend themselves against violent criminals.
Bob Farr, a Town resident, said he owned several different types of guns relating to his interests as a sportsman, conservationist and hunter. Mr. Farr stated that he had raised his children responsibly and taught them the importance of gun safety. He inquired whether depriving citizens of the right to bear arms would be beneficial in stemming the Town's crime rate. He stated that if the Town enacted a gun ban, criminals would stand to gain the most benefit.
David McFarling noted that Johnny Mariakakis was unable to attend the hearing due to the sudden serious illness of his son. Mr. McFarling noted Mr. Mariakakis' opposition to the proposed handgun restrictions. Speaking on his own behalf, Mr. McFarling said that a ban or anti-gun ordinance would likely be struck down in the courts. He stated that the Town could not afford to defend this type of ordinance. Mr. McFarling expressed his opposition to regulations restricting the use of guns for sporting purposes. He stated that the preferable course of action was for the Town to adopt tougher anti-crime ordinances.
Bill Meyers, speaking on behalf of John Herndon, noted that Switzerland had one of the lowest murder rates in the world despite having assault rifles in virtually every home in the nation. Mr. Meyers stated that the murder rate in the State of Florida had declined by 29% following adoption of a liberalized weapons ownership policy. He stated that easier access to firearms did not necessarily translate to increased violence. Mr. Herndon requested that the Council wisely choose a course of action to protect the residents of the Town by adequately staffing the Police Department.
Tim Pressley, a law enforcement officer for eighteen years, said the Town had a people problem rather than a gun problem. Mr. Pressley said he opposed attempts to ban firearm use by citizens. He stated that crime was presently on the rise. Mr. Pressley expressed his support for passage of an ordinance prohibiting possession of handguns by persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Dr. David Barry said the major problems currently facing the community were a rising crime rate and weak and ineffective court officials. A copy of Dr. Barry's remarks are on file in the Clerk's Office.
Jim Paulsgrove said criminals preferred to prey on disarmed victims. He suggested the illegal black market in weapons could continue to prosper despite greater handgun restrictions by the Town. Mr. Paulsgrove expressed concern that handgun control restrictions would be aimed at law-abiding citizens.
Ken Rudo said proposed handgun restrictions would tend to be aesthetic in nature. He expressed concern that the Town was growing too fast. Mr. Rudo suggested that the Town consider imposing a moratorium on all of the Town's residential growth. He also suggested that the Town attempt to hire new Police officers prior to the occurrence of future growth.
Cynthia Kimball, a friend of Kristin Lodge-Miller, the young woman murdered on Estes Drive on July 15, 1993, said she and Ms. Lodge-Miller had had several conversations about the importance of personal safety. Ms. Kimball said she shot pistols for recreation and planned to join the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the near future. She added that no additional laws would have afforded greater protection to Ms. Lodge-Miller. Ms. Kimball emphasized the importance of residents changing their behaviors by consistently evaluating their surroundings.
Tim McLaurin, a former member of the Marine Corps and Peace Corps, said he donated many hours of service to the community on an annual basis. Mr. McLaurin said he expected the government to serve and support him. He expressed concern that the Town was very segregated, with a major disparity between average white and minority persons in the community. Mr. McLaurin urged the Council to raise taxes on persons making a comfortable income and to enforce existing laws. Mr. McLaurin said he would not obey the proposed new ordinance if it were adopted.
Blair Haworth said guns were not inherently evil. He expressed concern that the staff's report to the Council appeared to circumvent the Constitution.
Delos O'Daniel, a resident of Jones Ferry Road, said guns were a major part of his upbringing. Noting his military service as a career soldier, Mr. O'Daniel said he had been proud to put his life on the line to protect his home and members of his family. He stated that the National Rifle Association and responsible weapons owners should not be held responsible for events such as the murder of Ms. Lodge-Miller.
Martha Dill, an English teacher at Chapel Hill High School, said some students at the school had "hair trigger" tempers and were upset by events in the home or personal lives. She emphasized the importance of teaching young persons to solve problems without resorting to violence. Ms. Dill emphasized the importance of having strong unambivalent statements that violence would not be tolerated in the community. She also stated that courageous leaders needed to demonstrate for a safer environment. Ms. Dill urged the Council to ban the sale and possession of handguns as soon as possible.
Janet Turchi, Director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Head Start program, said that pre-school years were years of curiosity for children. She stated that children exposed to violence at an early age were more likely to become violent adults. Ms. Turchi urged the Council to take strong steps to limit firearms usage.
John Russell, a Town resident and attorney with the firm of Moore and Van Allen, said he favored stricter handgun regulations. Mr. Russell said his firm wished to reaffirm its previous offer of pro bono legal service to the Town relative to handgun regulations. He stated that the matter was of handguns was primarily a political and moral issue, rather than being legal or technical in nature. Mr. Russell said he concurred with the Town Attorney's assessment that stricter handgun control regulations would likely be legally challenged. He noted that legal colleagues in Charlotte and Greensboro were especially interested in the Town's handgun control debate.
Sally Russell said the principal problem in the community was the presence of a complacent majority. She urged the Council to take steps to challenge prior inaction concerning measures to protect citizens against violent crime. Ms. Russell stated that the City of Washington, DC had seen a 23% decline in suicides and 25% decline in murders since instituting tougher gun restraints. She also noted that the one of the conclusions of the Seattle/Vancouver study cited earlier in the evening was that although the two cities had almost identical rates of non-gun related crimes, gun-related crimes were eight times higher in Seattle.
Carolyn Ikenberry, a long-time Town resident, said she favored a strong gun ban ordinance. Ms. Ikenberry said she was appalled that children were threatened by drive-by shootings and women are threatened by crimes of various types. She said local government was the appropriate place to being addressing these types of concerns. Ms. Ikenberry requested that the Council pass the most stringent gun control regulations permissible.
Don Kettlekamp, a Town resident and physician, noted that the State of Illinois required firearm owners to have identification cards. Dr. Kettlekamp expressed his support for enforcing stricter laws against criminals.
Velma Ferrell said she favored stricter regulation of handguns. Ms. Ferrell said it was significant that United States Senator John Chaffee had introduced a bill several months ago to restrict the possession of handguns. She stated that a Harris poll had indicated that 52% of citizens nationally favored a complete handgun ban. Ms. Ferrell said she hoped that the Council would urge a review of State regulations concerning handguns.
Arthur Finn, a physician and President of the local ACLU board of directors, said the local chapter concurred with the Supreme Court's ruling on the second amendment concerning the possession of firearms. Dr. Finn said all guns and assault weapons must be banned. He stated that many young people were losing the importance of the value of life. Dr. Finn urged the Council to enact a ban on handguns.
Brian Yeargan, a local resident and business owner, said he felt unsafe going to and from his own business. Mr. Yeargan said that drugs killed more people than guns. He stated that the State of Florida had experienced a decline in homicides following the adoption of less restrictive handgun regulations. Mr. Yeargan emphasized the importance of stricter enforcement against criminals by the state's and nation's judicial systems.
Sharon Van Horn said she was increasingly alarmed by the number of young children who had been victimized by actions involving guns. Ms. Van Horn expressed her support for a complete handgun ban by the Town. She stated that a handgun ban was a necessary beginning for societal changes.
Nathan Snipes said he had first been exposed to crack cocaine at the age of 8 or 9 while residing in Washington, DC. Mr. Snipes stated that there was a very strong correlation between the use of illegal highly addictive drugs and the incidence of violent crime. He added that crimes were committed using guns to support the drug habits of criminals.
Eddie Snipes said many 13 or 14 year old youths did not place a very high value on their own lives or those of others. Mr. Snipes said he favored the legalization of marijuana usage. He also expressed concern that many parents did not appear to care about the use of guns by their children.
Herbert Horner, a Town resident, said he did not support a handgun ban. He stated that such a measure would be ineffectual. Mr. Horner emphasized the need to strengthen the criminal justice system. He added that voters would make appropriate choices at election time.
Penny While said she frequently travelled alone. Ms. While said she needed protection against criminals. She urged individuals not to turn their rights over to the local, state or federal government.
Barbara Schutz noted that President Thomas Jefferson had stated that wise and frugal government should restrain men from harming one another in order to guarantee domestic tranquility. She said the Council was confronted with a traditional struggle to balance individual rights with the common good. Ms. Schutz said the United States had almost as many handguns as people. She added that the number of juvenile gunshot wounds between 1987 and 1990 had nearly doubled nationwide. Ms. Schutz said that nearly $1 billion was spent annually on the treatment of gunshot wounds.
Robert Fisher said very few guns used in the commission of crimes were registered to citizens. He noted that most crimes were committed using stolen guns. Mr. Fisher emphasized the need to control criminals, not law-abiding citizens. He stated that many needless deaths were caused by the imprudent mixing of alcohol use and the operation of boats and cars. Despite this trend, Mr. Fisher said there had been no move to ban cars or boats. He said that very few Town residents appeared to favor gun control restrictions.
Andrew Bare read a statement from Johnny Mariakakis opposing the proposed measures concerning handgun controls.
Theresa Ferrer said she had been the victim of an extremely violent crime about six months ago along with a companion. She urged the Council not to take away individual's rights to protect themselves against violent crimes.
Antonio Tarascio said it was wholly inappropriate for the Council to provide time for a speaker to make a presentation including the use of cartoons on such a serious issue. Mr. Tarascio said he found it odd that no balancing testimony had been provided by criminal law experts. Mr. Tarascio stated that he and Ms. Ferrar had been the victims of a violent crime at approximately 8 p.m. on a recent evening in the downtown area. He expressed concern that criminals tended to prey on the most defenseless residents of the community.
Esther Cates said she was a responsible handgun owner. Ms. Cates said she did not feel passing a handgun ban would take guns out of the hands of criminals. She also expressed concern that banning small handguns would effect her personally since she had small hands. Ms. Cates urged the Council not to adopt additional handgun restrictions.
Keith Savoy, speaking on behalf of Jessie Rogers, said there was nothing in the proposed bill to reduce crime rates. He stated that criminals would continue to ignore existing and any new laws. Mr. Savoy said that there were few handgun-related deaths on a relative basis. He added that rights which were curtailed today would also be denied to future generations.
Erin Shubert said although she owned a Remington 1200 shotgun, she did not wish to be associated with the gun lobby. Ms. Shubert said that criminals would always have access to handguns. She also expressed her support for proposed regulations outlined in keypoint number two of the staff's summary to the Council. Ms. Shubert requested that the Council impose mandatory safety courses and a waiting period for the purchase of handguns. She stressed the importance of addressing more complex societal ills. Ms. Shubert said although gun control legislation might be helpful, other types of opportunity programs were needed for positive changes to occur.
Joe Wall said all parties concurred that rampant violence in schools and on the streets was abhorred by, and intolerable to, all. Mr. Wall stated that the matter before the Council was a violence issue rather than a gun issue. He said there was no compelling evidence for the Town to have a handgun ban. Mr. Wall urged the Council to deal seriously with the community's handgun protection concerns.
Joe Straley, a former Town alderman, said it was within the power of the federal government to outlaw the personal use of handguns. Mr. Straley said that young teenagers with firearms did not constitute a well-regulated militia. He stated that fewer guns in the hands of the criminal element would have a strong effect.
Dr. Dana Windhorst, a local physician, said he was a classical liberal and an uncompromising defender of individual rights. Dr. Windhorst called into question the objectivity of the Council on the matter of handgun violence. He stated that rapes in the City of Orlando, Florida had fallen markedly following the increased use of handguns as a means of personal protection in 1965. Dr. Windhorst said the Council should have invited a representative with a viewpoint opposing that of the trauma doctors who had spoken earlier in the evening.
John Thomas, a Duke University Physics professor, skeet shooter, and National Rifle Association member, said tougher laws against criminals, rather than gun restrictions, were needed.
Scott Crenshaw, a lifelong community resident, said he opposed the proposed handgun regulations. Mr. Crenshaw said he looked forward to Council action on the matter.
Betty Ibrahim said she opposed any form of gun control. Ms. Ibrahim said she greatly valued freedoms afforded by the U.S. Constitution. She stated that law-abiding people with guns were not a problem in the community. Ms. Ibrahim said priority should be given to addressing the area's drug-related problems. She urged the Council to drop the concept of handgun control measures.
Jim Tuten, a long-time Town resident, said individuals had the right to keep and bear handguns. Mr. Tuten said criminals would not heed a handgun ban by the Town. He stated that South America had many police states were individual rights were greatly compromised. Mr. Tuten also said the right to bear arms was a very important one. He urged the Council to support legislation to put more criminals in jail.
Caroline Lindsay, a teacher of young children for over twenty years, said she supported a strict ban on guns. Ms. Lindsay stated that Mary Wright Edelman had expressed concern that the nation was morally lost and unwilling to disarm its children of weapons. She emphasized the importance of teaching children how to handle conflict without violence.
Paul Lindsay said there was no simple answer or quick fix to the problems created by violent crime. He noted that he Durham City Schools had a new conflict resolution training program focusing on problem-solving without violence.
Andy Hudson said he opposed gun control. He emphasized the importance of parents teaching children about gun safety. Mr. Hudson said it was the right of individuals to own guns.
Mickey Ewell said he opposed the Town's proposed gun control measures. Mr. Ewell stated that the court system was not doing an adequate job. He also expressed concern that the Council was giving inadequate support to the Police Department. Mr. Ewell stated that some individuals placed very little value in human life.
Henry Bibb said he felt somewhat betrayed by the call for an outright ban on handguns. He stated that many persons used handguns in a responsible manner. Mr. Bibb expressed concern that the criminal justice system was not working properly. He proposed the formation of a task force to deal with crime-related problems.
Brigitte Philipp said her 12 year-old son had recently been robbed by a 14 year-old boy in a local shopping center parking lot while sitting in his parent's vehicle. Ms. Philipp said she was very torn about the proposal concerning handgun controls. She expressed concern that society had failed to instill appropriate values in many young people.
Paul DuBose said the matter before the Council was a complex issue with many fine points. Mr. DuBose stated that he did not favor a handgun control ban. He also noted the importance of having training and safety courses for the proper handling of handguns.
Scott Jens said crime, rather than guns, hurt people. Mr. Jens said he found it appalling that his wife could not safely walk on Town streets after dark. He stated that gun control laws had not been successful in slowing crime rates in communities which passed tougher regulations. Mr. Jens emphasized the importance of keeping violent criminals in jail without benefit of parole or plea bargaining.
Robert Horne said existing local, state and federal regulations should be enforced to control gun usage. He also emphasized the importance of keeping criminals in jail.
Dr. Julio DeAngelis, a National Rifle Association member, said he definitely opposed any additional restrictions on the acquisition of handguns. Dr. DeAngelis stated that his personal references for a gun permit were thoroughly questioned and evaluated. He also said that existing gun control regulations were adequate. Dr. DeAngelis said prohibitions against guns would create a larger black market in weapons.
Mayor Broun invited Dr. Windhorst to present a ten-minute rebuttal at the continuation of the public hearing tomorrow evening. Dr. Widhorst noted that he would attempt to construct a rebuttal despite being out of town most of the day on Wednesday.
Mayor Broun noted that the hearing would be continued on Wednesday, September 8th. The Tuesday evening hearing ended at 11:03 p.m.