The Pitt County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to hold a public hearing on modifying rules for carrying weapons into its meetings and on county owned property.
Currently, the only people outside law enforcement who can bring deadly weapons onto county property are those who have concealed carry permits. Open carry is prohibited.
As part of an ongoing discussion about increasing security at commission meetings, the board debated whether concealed carry permit holders should be allow to bring their weapons to the meetings.
“It confounds me that the safest people in the entire population are prohibited from coming in here,” Commissioner Tom Coulson said. “Do you not think they have our names and addresses and phones? They can get you at the house.”
Coulson said he doesn’t know why other commissioners are worried about the issue. Commissioner Lauren White said she doesn’t see a need to change the existing ordinance.
Commissioner Melvin McLawhorn said he believed any action involving weapons needed to be extended to remove the changes that allowed permitted concealed handguns into buildings. Those modifications were made in 2015.
The discussion then shifted to what language should be included in the official notification of the public hearing — hearings must be held in order to change a county ordinance.
“You don’t want to (give notice to) the public of a proposed change and have a public hearing and then do something different than what the public was “notified) about,” County Attorney Janis Gallagher said.
The public hearing notice could state the two options being considered by the board: not allowing any weapons in rooms where the commissioners meet or revoke the rules allowing concealed weapons in county owned buildings, she said.
The public hearing was approved by a 6-3 vote with Coulson, White and Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick voting no.
There was no discussion about when the public hearing will be held; at the board’s Sept. 27 meeting or sometime in October.
Later in Monday’s meeting, Coulson, Fitzpatrick and White voted against a budget amendment that will fund $2,832 for security at commission meetings held between Aug. 26 and Dec. 1. The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office will provide the service.