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N.C. legislators must act now to stop restaurant homicide

3 recent restaurant crimes: 2 disarmed victims dead, 1 armed concealed handgun permit-holder prevails …

When Grass Roots North Carolina drafted legislation to expand concealed carry into the state’s restaurants, the naysayers laughed. “Why should anybody need a gun in a restaurant?” they smirked. “Think about drunks with guns!” Sadly, last weekend gave us the sort of retort we have dreaded all along: Danielle Watson.

Danielle was a manager at the Flying Biscuit Café in Charlotte. On January 13, she was closing the restaurant along with recently-hired cook Mark Cox. What she apparently didn’t know about Cox was that he was a felon, released just two months ago after doing time for armed robbery.

How Danielle died

If police know what happened that night, they aren’t saying. We know her cell phone called her fiancé, Keith Smith, around 10:00 PM. It was a garbled call with people speaking, perhaps shouting, in the background. After she failed to respond to numerous texts and voicemails, Smith finally called 911.

Smith believes it was probably already too late, that it ultimately didn’t matter when the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) utterly botched the 911 call. But they did. And in a long string of tragedies like those detailed in the book “Dial 911 and Die!” police never showed up.

It seems the dispatcher recorded the restaurant name as “Plum Biscuit” and wrote down the wrong address. Police ended up at a residence miles from the restaurant. Worse, although the dispatcher had promised to call Smith back, nobody ever did; apparently, nobody with CMPD even tried to reconcile the error.

So it wasn’t until the next morning, when Flying Biscuit employees reported an apparent robbery, that the CMPD found Danielle’s body, stabbed to death and left behind a nearby dumpster.

Danielle was pregnant. She and Smith were to be secretly married this weekend. On Saturday, she’ll be buried instead. Her mother learned in a single phone call that her daughter was both pregnant and dead.

They caught Cox, of course, in Fayetteville where he abandoned her car. But that is cold comfort to the parents of a bright, attractive 25-year-old who will now go into the ground.

Danielle is not alone

Nor is North Carolina restaurant homicide a rarity. Just two days after Danielle died – also in Charlotte – Ed Rosen, an employee at the Fast Wok, was shot to death by two perps during an armed robbery.

In 2007, two MS-13 gang members walked into the Marisqueria Las Jarochitas restaurant in Greensboro and murdered two patrons. Before that, Kenneth Junior French walked into Luigi’s Restaurant in Fayetteville with two shotguns and a rifle, killing four.

And this, of course, is just in North Carolina. A 30-second Google search brings up the 2006 Lindenhurst, IL Burger King homicide (1 dead); the 2010 North Hollywood Hot Spot Café killings (4 dead); the 1984 San Ysidro McDonalds massacre (22 dead); and bloodiest of them all, the infamous 1991 Killeen, TX Luby’s Cafeteria massacre (23 dead).

Prohibited by law from self-defense

We may never know whether Danielle’s murder could have been prevented, or whether her murderer might have been deterred by the prospect of encountering an armed victim. According to Smith, she was tough. But even a tough woman, disarmed, is no match for an ex-con with a knife.

What we do know is that under North Carolina law, Danielle and thousands of restaurant workers like her are prohibited from protecting themselves with firearms. Why? Because the Flying Biscuit, like scores of other restaurants, has an on-premise alcohol consumption permit, and N.C.G.S. 14-269.3 prohibits firearms wherever alcohol is “sold and consumed.”

Although some would suggest otherwise, that prohibition does not apply just to patrons, but also to restaurant workers. The only narrow carve-out is for the “owner or lessee” of the business, and Danielle was neither.

How Republicans might have saved her

There is a bill in the North Carolina legislature to deter restaurant crime and give workers and patrons alike the tools to defend themselves: It is House Bill 111, “Handgun Permit Valid in Parks & Restaurants,” and fortunately, the bill is still alive.

The bad news is that so far, Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Guildford, Rockingham) and other Republican leaders such as Rules Chair Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe, Henderson, Polk) refuse to give it a hearing. In a political application of “half-a-loaf” theory, Judiciary Chairman Buck Newton (R-Nash, Wilson) informed me they would pull the parks carry provision from HB 111 and place it into another omnibus gun bill which contained Castle Doctrine, improvements to concealed carry, and other measures. That bill was HB 650, and it became law on December 1.

“What about restaurants?” I asked. No go, was the reply. Based on two polls of people who didn’t understand the issue and had been bombarded by newspaper editorials about “drunks with guns,” Republicans decided it “didn’t poll well.”

Never mind that under HB 111 concealed handgun permit-holders would still be prohibited from having any alcohol in their body, nor that North Carolina permit-holders had spent sixteen years proving themselves sane, sober and law-abiding. In a classic exercise of politicians clinging to power rather than actually leading, Berger and his Republicans almost immediately forgot who “brung ‘em to the dance” and became slaves to polls.

So while Danielle’s lifeless body lay behind a dumpster, the bill to prevent such crimes languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because it already passed the House, it is still alive. But unless it gets a committee hearing and a floor vote by the end of the “short session” which begins in May, it too will be D.O.A.

How it should end

Now contrast this with another restaurant crime, only one week later. Just across the South Carolina border, in Spartanburg, Dante Lamont Williams and another man entered the Waffle House on Chesnee Highway. Both men were armed with handguns. But when they held customers at gunpoint, a patron who was a concealed handgun permit holder shot Williams, killing him. The other robber fled, and innocent lives were saved.

Act now to stop restaurant crime

Time is short. To pass HB 111, you must immediately do two things:

When you call them, deliver this message:

Stop Restaurant Homicide: Pass House Bill 111!

VISIT THESE GUN RIGHTS EXAMINERS ON-LINE:

Atlanta Ed Stone| Austin Howard Nemerov| Boston Ron Bokleman| Charlotte Paul Valone| Cheyenne Anthony Bouchard| Chicago Don Gwinn| Cleveland Daniel White| DC Mike Stollenwerk| Denver Dan Bidstrup| Des Moines Sean McClanahan|Detroit Rob Reed| Fort Smith Steve D. Jones| Knoxville Liston Matthews| Los Angeles John Longenecker| Minneapolis John Pierce| National David Codrea| Seattle Dave Workman| St. Louis Kurt Hofmann| Tucson Chris Woodard| Oakland Yih-Chau Chang | Gaithersburg Gary Roehm

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