Approximately two dozen proponents of the Second Amendment gathered outside the Moore County Historic Courthouse on Tuesday evening, and several addressed commissioners seeking support
Waving flags and banners, those outside the Board of Commissioners meeting in Carthage garnered some appreciative horn toots from passing motorists.
Meanwhile, on the second floor of the building, commissioners conducted a regular business meeting that did not include any gun-related agenda items; however, several people spoke during public comment on a variety of politically charged issues ranging from gun ownership to statewide mask mandates to concerns that First Amendment rights are at risk.
Local resident Vic Allen encouraged county leaders to stand firm in their support of gun rights, stating that he is “uncomfortable living right now.”
“I’ve been told I was deplorable, that I cling to my Bible and my guns. Now I’ve been identified by half of our government as a domestic terrorist and a racist,” Allen said, alluding to the tumultuous national election and its aftermath. “Why are there troops in the capital? What are they afraid of? Tyrants have made people defenseless all through history.”
In February 2020, before a packed meeting room dominated by Second Amendment supporters, the Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution vowing “to use every authority and power of the county to defend and protect the rights” of its citizens to bear arms.”
The resolution further stated the board would oppose, within the limits of the Constitution of the United States and the state of North Carolina, any efforts to unconstitutionally restrict such rights, and that the Constitution “shall be the supreme law of the land.”
But the resolution stopped short of declaring Moore County as a “Second Amendment sanctuary county,” as several surrounding counties have done, including Richmond and Lee. Following the meeting last year, Commissioner Louis Gregory told The Pilot the Board worked with Sheriff Ronnie Fields in crafting the resolution, which was modeled after one adopted by Randolph County.
Allen expressed disappointment in commissioners’ decision to omit the "sanctuary county" language. He said the wording of the Second Amendment is “pretty clear. It is politicians and different interest groups that muddy the water.”
“Individual liberty is the core of our republic. We should not let it slip anymore,” he added.
Ken Benway also spoke in support of gun rights. He asked the county leaders to be proactive defenders of the Second Amendment, stating that without it the Bill of Rights is “defenseless”.
“We must hang together or, most assuredly, we will hang separately,” Benway said.
David Miller cautioned that there are a number of gun control bills currently before Congress that “would inhibit or do away with the Second Amendment.”
“We here in Moore County have hundreds and hundreds of gun owners. I would say 99 percent are law-abiding citizens,” Miller said, adding that the county’s resolution of support is a symbolic but powerful gesture.
Alexa Roberts also expressed her appreciation for county leaders passing the resolution stating their support of the Second Amendment last year, and challenged them to make the same commitment now to the First Amendment.
“We are becoming an echo chamber,” Roberts said, “of people unwilling to listen to those with differing beliefs.”
In particular, she singled out the “cancel culture” attitude that has threatened the area’s small business community over mask mandates. She said there have been calls to boycott businesses on both sides of the debate.
“While politics can divide us, it is time to stand firmly on common ground. The First Amendment unites us all,” Roberts said, asking county leaders to declare their support for the right for freedom of speech and religion, the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government with grievances.
Lynn Goldham also expressed concern about individual rights and liberty.
“I feel like lately, only certain people are getting their rights protected: masks come to mind. It is proven that they don’t stop viruses getting in and getting out,” Goldham said, stating that it should be the right for individuals in Moore County to have the choice to wear a mask or carry a gun.
The mandate to wear face masks in public places was ordered several months ago by Gov. Roy Cooper as a means of reducing transmission of the coronavirus.
Kevin Lewis also spoke in support of the First Amendment, noting that people with open-carry permits of firearms may intimidate others from peaceably assembling. He noted a recent encounter with an armed man in a grocery store who refused to wear a mask and made him nervous.
“The right to assembly is one of our most important rights. But when those assembled are not peaceful, people will get hurt,” Lewis said. “I hope people will realize that a (Second Amendment) sanctuary county is not where I or other people want to live.”
John Misiaszek also spoke in support of free speech, asking county leaders to add an option for public comments to be submitted in writing prior to a meeting. He said this is timely and necessary with social restrictions still in place that limit the number of people who can attend the meetings in person.
Building security in the courthouse was slightly heightened during Tuesday’s meeting, with bag checks in progress. Standard security measures also in place include temperature screening and stepping through a metal detector.
Prior to the start of the meeting, County Chairman Frank Quis reminded audience members that face masks are required inside county facilities to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. A Moore County Sheriff’s deputy and Moore County Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips passed out disposable face masks to the few in attendance who had arrived without one.
Top County Jobs Approved for Salary Increases
Also Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners approved increases in annual salaries for several of the county’s top ranked positions, effective July 1.
According to information provided to The Pilot, County Manager Wayne Vest’s current salary of $161,262 will increase to $170,000; County Attorney Misty Leland’s current salary of $133,171 will increase to $140,000; County Clerk Laura William’s current salary of $81,151 will increase to $90,000; County Tax Administrator Gary Briggs’ current salary of $98,838 will increase to $103,000; Register of Deeds Judy Martin’s current salary of $96,061 will increase to $100,000; and Sheriff Ronnie Fields’ current salary of $116,372 will increase to $122,000. This is the first salary adjustment to these positions since August 2019.
In other discussion, the Moore County Board of Commissioners:
Sitting as East Moore Water District Board of Directors, approved a Phase 4 project revision and sole source purchase of water meters, not to exceed $32,000.
Approved the purchase of an ambulance chassis and remount requested by Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips.
Reappointed Laura May and appointed Joseph Keen to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.
Appointed Matt Hausser of the Talamore community to the CVB Board.