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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 14:49

Gun rights event to take place in Haywood

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A group of Second Amendment supporters planning an open-carry gun rights rally will move ahead with their event, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5.

Organizer Jess Dunlap of the Haywood County Libertarian Party said that the event, which is being called a 2A Peace Vigil, isn’t directly related to the presidential election, but is meant to get the attention of local politicians. 

“Any infringement upon the Second Amendment is wrong,” Dunlap said. “It says ‘shall’ not be infringed.”

Supporters — who are asked to bring non-perishable food items for donation a local Christian ministry — will gather in front of the Historic Haywood County Courthouse around 10 a.m. Anyone wishing to speak may do so, Dunlap said. 

Dunlap has been planning the event since late August, and promoting it by canvassing in Clyde, Haywood County, West Asheville and even far-flung Robbinsville. Dunlap also plans to spread awareness of the event at the Gem Capitol Waynesville Gun Show, to be held this weekend at the Haywood County Fairgrounds. 

Part of Dunlap’s planning has been coordinating with local law enforcement officials, including Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed and Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher.  

“We’re on the same page,” Dunlap said. 

Dunlap characterized law enforcement’s participation as outstanding, to which Hollingsed agreed. 

“From the very early planning stages of the vigil, Jess contacted both the sheriff and I and we’ve met on a couple different occasions and just wanted to make sure the event goes smoothly,” Hollingsed said. “So communication and cooperation has been excellent.”

He also helped Dunlap and members of the group understand how, exactly, not to run afoul of the law. 

“The biggest thing is there’s a state statute which they all know pretty well — we all know pretty well — and then there’s the county ordinance which covers the courthouse property itself,” he said. “The only thing about the open carry, the concealed carry, that kind of thing is that once you’re on county property, then it becomes an issue.”

To avoid the possibility of arrests, Hollingsed said that officers would clearly mark the boundary between public and county property. 

Hollingsed also said he can’t recall such an event taking place in the 17 years he’s been here, which is why part of the police department’s presence at the event is to reassure the public that the event is not something sinister or unexpected. 

“We will have officers assigned to the vigil itself just to show the public that we are aware of the vigil and we’re there for everybody’s protection — both the individuals at the vigil and everybody else,” he said. “We don’t want to have a strong police presence because of a lot of people are armed on the sidewalk; we just want to have a presence to let the public know we’re aware of the vigil and we’re here so there’s no need to call the police.”

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