Lee County Commissioner Kevin Dodson will push a series of votes in the coming months to allow the concealed carrying of firearms in some county-owned buildings, he told the Rant this weekend.
The Rant was prompted to contact Dodson by a 13 minute YouTube video he uploaded on Aug. 4 in which he offers his thoughts on recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. In the video, Dodson says business owners who don’t want guns, concealed or otherwise, on their property are “idiot, ignoramus, jackass morons.”
“These morons that put these signs on the doors, that’s right, you’re a moron,” Dodson says in the video as he points at the camera. “You’re an idiot. You’re trying to get people killed.”
Dodson also references owning a gun store and offering concealed carry classes, but denies that his statements are aimed at earning more business.
“I’ve got plenty of business when it comes to firearms training,” he says.
Near the close of the video, Dodson references his role as a commissioner and says “you probably know what’s on my mind then, if you live in Lee County.”
“I think everybody ought to be able to carry a gun concealed,” he continues. “It’s lawfully allowed to carry a gun concealed anywhere in public places.”
Dodson’s statements aren’t entirely accurate. State and federal laws bar concealed weapons in a host of public places including courthouses, schools, and other government buildings. Additionally, privately-owned buildings which house government functions – such as the Buggy Factory in downtown Sanford – are entitled to make their own decisions about whether firearms are allowed. And often, those private decisions are driven as much by concerns about liability issues as they are anything else.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners in 2014 voted to prohibit carrying concealed firearms in county-owned facilities after a change to state law would have made it possible in some buildings. That list of buildings consisted of the Government Center on Hillcrest Drive, the Enrichment Center, the downtown Board of Elections office, and the Administration Building on Summit Drive. Some park facilities would have also been impacted at different times, depending on varying factors.
Those votes passed over the opposition of Republican commissioners Kirk Smith and Andre Knecht. But the political landscape is different today than in 2014 – while Republicans on the board constitute a 4-3 minority, if they are joined by Dodson on this issue they conceivably have enough votes to guarantee its passage.
Dodson was elected to one of the board’s at large seats in 2016 as a Republican, but switched parties less than a year later after expressing dissatisfaction with the local GOP’s leadership, particularly on the issue of economic incentives. In addition to owning a gun outlet in the Tramway area, Dodson at the time was an officer with the Siler City Police Department.
After switching parties, he mounted a campaign for sheriff against Republican incumbent Tracy Carter, losing in a 69-31 landslide. During that election campaign, Dodson was criticized for leaving the United States Army after going absent without leave in 1983 (subscription required), and later was terminated from his job with the Siler City PD. Since losing the 2018 sheriff’s race, Dodson has been absent from at least five meetings of the board, which constitutes about a quarter of the meetings. Dodson’s term expires next year, and while he has not said whether he plans to seek re-election, he said shortly after losing the sheriff’s race in 2018 that he planned to run again in 2022.
Asked to expound on his comments in the video, Dodson said he understood that changing the county’s concealed carry ordinance would only impact four buildings and that he doesn’t support concealed carry in the courthouse because “there are usually armed officers in the courthouse.”
He also said he stands by the words he used to describe business owners or others who don’t want firearms on their property.
“Yes, I do stand by those words,” he said. “These business owners that post these signs simply don’t understand. You know as well as I do that a criminal is not going to obey these signs. If they knew that there possibly was a law abiding citizen carrying a firearm they may think twice before thinking about inflicting violence on unsuspecting citizens.”
And although he describes in the video a situation in which a citizen leaves their firearm in a vehicle to comply with a business owner’s wishes and then encounters an attacker, he said he wasn’t encouraging anyone to disobey “no firearms” signs.
“I do not support breaking the law,” he said. “I just don’t agree with the signs because the only people that will obey are law abiding citizens.”
The concealed carry ordinance was discussed again in 2017, at which time Lee County Manager John Crumpton said he’d conducted an employee survey (begin reading on page 53) on the issue and found a clear majority majority of county workers felt safe at work and would not feel safer if concealed carry was allowed in their workplaces.
If Dodson or another member of the board does decide to push forward with the issue, multiple meetings – including a public hearing – would be required. The agenda for the board’s next meeting has not yet been announced.