Semi-Automatic Weapons in Valley Forge National Historical Park . . . Do You Feel Safer?

This past week brought much discussion on Community Matters about sidewalks, trails and paths.  Several people suggested that if you want to walk or bicycle, why not just use the paths at Valley Forge National Historical Park.  With that in mind, I wrote the following post with the hope of engaging some lively discussion.

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The next time you decide to visit Valley Forge Park to enjoy a bicycle ride or an afternoon of sledding with the kids, are you going to feel safer? 

Did you know that as of this week, fellow visitors with proper gun permits can legally pack heat inside our national parks, including Valley Forge National Historical Park?

Yes, a law that took effect Monday lifted the long-standing ban on bringing guns into our national parks.  In Valley Forge National Historical Park, as we walk the trails and enjoy family picnics, tourists will be allowed to carry guns – handguns, rifles, shotguns and AK-47s. Now, as long as guns are allowed by state law, licensed gun owners can bring firearms on park property.  Guns will be allowed in all but about 20 of the park service’s 392 locations, including some of its most iconic parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as historic parks, including our own Valley Forge National Historical Park. Guns will not be allowed in visitor centers or rangers’ offices, because firearms are banned in federal buildings, but they could be carried into private lodges or concession stands, depending on state laws.

The new rule allows people to carry firearms, including semi-automatic weapons, in most national parks and wildlife refuges, so long as they follow the gun laws of the state. (That could get a little complicated, as more than 30 parks occupy land in multiple states.) The rule means people can now carry concealed weapons while camping in places like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

I admit up front that I am one of the people with issues concerning the availability of guns in this country.  My stance on stricter gun control rules will certainly strike a chord among some of the readers. I know the argument that strict gun control does not reduce crime because it does not keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Criminals do not abide by waiting periods or registration requirements. The only people affected by these so-called “gun control” measures are law-abiding citizens, who are rendered less able to resist crime. However almost daily, our world is filled with news of gun violence in this country . . . in shopping malls, on college campuses, office buildings.

Gun crimes in any setting are horrific. However, crimes committed on the grounds of an academic institution take on an almost macabre air because of the serene atmosphere associated with such places. Gun violence on school campuses is a stark reminder that guns cannot discriminate amongst their victims, nor can they discern the intentions of those who wield them. This is repeated so often that it may as well be a cliché. If events over the past decade are any indicator, no positive response seems forthcoming. Though it is a human who pulls the trigger, there is no violent crime without the proverbial smoking gun. National parks [Valley Forge National Historical Park] like our educational institutions, are places that enshrine the ideals of knowledge and tranquility . . . should we not feel beholden to preserve these places as a utopian ideal for the future?  Do we want to be remembered as the generation that put guns into paradise?

The way I see it there are two camps on this.  First, there are the people who will feel safer knowing that they can be armed in our national parks, just in case they run into troublesome people or dangerous wildlife.  The second group will feel more unsafe.  You willl never know who is armed, and anytime there is a confrontation, firearms bring a whole new sense of alarm into the equation.  Once you pull that trigger, there’s no taking it back.  From my vantage point, toting firearms into our national parks poses a serious threat to the public.  There, I said it. Personally, the next time I am walking in Valley Forge National Historical Park, I am not going to feel safer knowing that fellow visitors on the path may be legally packing a weapon.

The new law permitting licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks has come over the objections of gun-control advocates who fear it will lead to increased violence in national parks.  Responding to the new law, John Waterman, President, US Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police offered the following statement:

The Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police has opposed this ill-considered law from the beginning. The new law goes beyond concealed carry to include all guns anytime.  The chances of an inexperienced visitor who has not seen a bear or buffalo wandering through a campground, gets frightened and takes out the now readily available firearm and shoots blindly at an animal or a person in a misguided effort to “protect themselves” from a perceived threat is now increased.  Allowing untrained and unlicensed people carrying guns in National Parks is an invitation to disaster. It puts the safety of the public and rangers at increased risk and virtually invites the desecration of our natural and historic treasures. 

Pennsylvania has fairly loose restrictions on carrying guns.  As long as a person is legally entitled to own a firearm – for instance they must have no past felony convictions, mental-health commitments or protection-from-abuse order restrictions – there is little stop a person from carrying a gun in public. I am sure that there will be readers who completely disagree with my position on the danger of guns in Valley Forge National Historical Park.  In fact, I am certain that some people will suggest that their ‘right’ to carry a gun should not stop at the park entrance.   

52 Comments

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  1. Great, a new topic. I for one think that the sidewalks and St. Davids issue has been discussed sufficiently and let’s take the talk to this new topic. Guns in the park – wow. I knew that there was legislation being considered but didn’t realize that it had passed, let alone the fact that it is now the law.

    I’m a supporter of people’s rights to bear arms . . . to a point. I actively run in Valley Forge Park and I have to tell you that I never thought about anyone having guns. If I didn’t know that this legislation had passed, I would probably have been just fine (ignorance is bliss theory). But now that I know, it is definitely going to be on my mind every time I take a run. A little scarey I think!

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  2. Here is the actual text from the Bill of Rights. Doesn’t say that we can’t bear arms in the national parks. I for one intend to take my gun with me the next time I go to Valley Forge Park. Why? Because I can.

    Second Amendment:
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

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    VFNHP Fan Reply:

    I love Valley Forge Park – and walk there at least 5 times a week (year round). I never thought about guns in the park (one way or the other). Reading your comment that you will be taking your gun to the park ‘because you can’ — causes me real pause. Sure, I will still go to the park but I’m going to be a whole lot more observant of those around me — won’t be enjoying nature so much as keeping my eyes on the rest of the visitors. It probably doesn’t make much sense but I guess you just think some places are sacred, like federal parks.

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    2nd Amendment Supporter, Too.. Reply:

    During Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, rebels developed the horrific tactic of chopping off the hands or legs of civilians as a way of sowing terror in the population.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/05/africa_sierra_leone_amputee/html/1.stm

    Take the issue out of the park for a moment. One has to ask; if the citizenry were armed in Sierra Leone, would these horrific acts taken place? They had no way to defend themselves. The armed rebels were at a distinct advantage against the unarmed villagers.

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    John W Reply:

    What a silly question. The answer is yes.

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  3. Up until now, did you really feel safer walking in VFNP as opposed to on a trail in Chesterbrook, in a township park or at the Paoli Acme?

    I would suggest that there is a third camp – those that mostly just go about their business and don’t worry too much about who is and who is not carrying a gun.

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  4. Is this the solution to the over population of deer? Is Valley Forge park to become a shooting gallery during hunting season?

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    Township reader Reply:

    What a silly comment. If you want to come love some deer, join them in their destruction of my backyard nightly…I don’t carry a gun. But I have buried two friends in car accidents related to deer.

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    Deer Lover Reply:

    Township Reader
    Before you judge me, read this.
    http://pattyebenson.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/pending-lawsuit-offers-holiday-reprieve-for-deer-at-valley-forge-national-historic-park/#comments

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    Freddy Reply:

    lets hope so.
    i say they open up a deer jerky stand next to the arch and give all the profits to the firefighters!

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  5. Pattye, you acknowledge that citizens already carry firearms throughout the state. And now that their right to do so doesn’t end at the border of a national park you’re less safe?

    If you just wanted to air your anti-gun views that’s one thing. But are you actually saying that there were people who retreated to the “sanctuary” of Valley Forge and felt safer before, when the only people who were armed were either criminals or Rangers?

    Also, why do you highlight “semi-automatic weapons”? The change in law applies to all firearms. Would you be less upset if they had only allowed revolvers and pump-, lever-, or bolt-action firearms?

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Lysander – I guess I did think that there were certain areas that were ‘off limits’, national parks being one of them. But of course, even without this new law, there was certainly ‘no checking the guns at the entrance’, so anyone with a gun could have walked in to the parks regardless of the law. Just surprised by the legislation I suppose.

    As for the highlighting of ‘semi-automatic weapons’ — I wrote the article and picked a subject title line. Sure, I could have just used the word ‘guns’ instead of ‘semi-automatic weapons’. Writers decision, but let me clarify I would not be less upset “if they had only allowed revolvers and pump-, lever-, or bolt-action firearms” Gosh, I don’t even know what a ‘bolt-action firearm’ is . . .
    But I think new legislation that affects a national park (part of whose boundaries are within the township) would seem to be a good community topic. What’s your opinion about the new law, neutral?

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    Lysander Reply:

    I think it’s quite ironic that the federal government ever banned the carrying of arms suitable for militia use in Valley Forge National Park. After all, the only reason this nation exists and has a landmark in this location is that a bunch of men decided to assert a natural right to take up arms against a government that forbade them.

    As a Constitutional matter the recision of that ban was inevitable: The federal government cannot infringe on the right of Americans to bear arms.

    Soon the Supreme Court will determine (in McDonald v. Chicago) whether the Second Amendment similarly constrains lower governments.

    As a matter of conscience: Assaults, murders, suicides, and accidents occur throughout the world at rates that have relatively little correlation to the legality or availability of firearms. But there is no question that firearms are the only means by which an individual — regardless of size, strength, or disability — can defend himself and his loved ones against criminal assault. Those who try to restrict or remove the means of the weak to lawfully defend themselves against victimization by the strong should be held accountable for every act of criminal violence they thus enable.

    My opinion of the new law: It’s about time. The fewer areas criminals can confidently prey on disarmed victims the better.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Because “semi-automatic” is the buzz word of the “gun control” crowd. It sounds more ominous and threatening. Same reason they use it on the news all of the time. “Semi-automatic handgun, semi-automatic rifle, etc”. Even though there really is no difference between the damage a round from one type of gun can do vs. the other… That is one of those subtle scare tactics perpetuated by the “gun control” crowd. That, and ridiculous comments like those posted above by “Deer Lover” regarding deer control in the park. They just inflame the uninformed.

    I put gun control in quotes, because (as Pattye alluded to) there are already controls and laws in place. All that enacting more does is endanger the already law abiding citizens by restricting their natural rights.

    Like has been pointed out already, people are already permitted to carry in the malls, theaters, etc. Do you feel an less safe there?

    It is rather ironic however, that the discussion is over allowing firearms in a National Park that is memorialized for the massive amounts of violence and bloodshed that took place on its lands at the hands of firearms.

    If I am a law abiding citizen, which I am; if I am a law abiding citizen who has gone through all of the appropriate background checks to purchase a firearm, which I have; and if I am a law abiding citizen that has gone through all of the background checks to purchase the firearm and then the background paperwork for a Concealed Carry permit, then I have (and should righfully so) every right to carry it anywhere I please. This does not mean I agree with the people making the rather dramatic point last year about openly carrying to the political demonstrations. I agree with their right to do it, but I myself would not.

    Having a Concealed Carry permit does not relieve me of my responsibilities to act appropriately or lawfully while carrying that firearm.

    Gun control is one of those political issues that sets me in Republican camp instead of the Democratic when it comes to big picture politics.

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  6. If I have the legal right to carry a gun in PA, I believe it is fair that my right should enable me to carry it to Valley Forge. I do not personally carry or own guns. But I know that some people get a permit because they have a stalker or a violent ex-husband. If they go to all of the trouble to get a carry permit, I don’t think they should be forced to go unarmed in the to Park. Criminals would still carry guns into the Park regardless of the law, so this doesn’t change how criminals would act. This law just enables law-abiding citizens who have the proper permits to keep their concealed firearm with them. I do not feel any less safe knowing that people who are already carrying guns at the King of Prussia Mall or into the Acme supermarket can now carry guns in to Valley Forge. They never threatened me at the Mall, so why should they bother me at Valley Forge. if the weapons are concealed, I wouldn’t even know they had them, right?

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  7. To answer your question, YES. Just like any other place, the people who you need to worry about are the one’s who do not carry legally and do not register their firearms. I can assure you that there are people who carry firearms in the Park already, illegally. Do you think they really care about a law stating they can’t carry it in the Park, if they are carrying an unregistered weapon?

    People who carry them legally and are safely trained are not the ones to worry about. I guarantee that when you go shopping in Chesterbrook or Paoli on a Saturday afternoon, someone around you is safely and legally armed, and you would not even know it. They conceal it properly and do not bring attention to it. That is not what it is there for.

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  8. I am finding this dialogue very interesting. I do alot of family camping in national parks in this country and I am struggling with the new gun law. I get the 2nd amendment rights to bear arms, and sure if you can take your gun to the King of Prussia mall or the movie theater, why not the national parks? But when you are out in the middle of the woods in a tent and some person think they hear a black bear and starts shooting only to find out that it was someone on the way back from the bathroom . . . I am just a bit concerned.

    Here’s an interesting video that I came across titled, Guns in National Parks: America’s Latest Greatest Idea?

    http://vimeo.com/9637269

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Camper — Thanks for the video clip.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Again, yet more inflammatory speech by the uninformed… It really is disturbingly ignorant…

    Because I guess, if you decide to carry a firearm in a campgrounds, that automatically predisposes you to just firing off randomly at every unidentified noise. Trite and fantastical exaggerations like that are the safehold of the anti-gun crowd.

    And your video would be funny, were it not produced in order to just be yet another sensationalist piece of garbage to further the anti-gun cause even though it has no hold on reality.

    What is truly sickening is that more often than not, the anti-gun crowd acts as if they hold the high ground on sense and brains. That people in favor of their 2nd Amendment rights lack the actual intelligence to handle the responsibility to handle firearms. Elitism.

    And not to become partisan, as I scolded Chet for that earlier, but on subjects such as this, that is the root of where Dems and Repubs differ. Repubs would rather be left alone, whereas Democrats (as a Party ideal) think that they are the only ones smart enough to look after everyone and that they should be the keepers of all.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Just wanted to add, since that video really has struck a nerve.

    I guess that the next time I go camping with my family you’ll find me low-crawling and tumbling around the woods firing off my gun and doing my best James Bond imitation. Arrggh. That truly was just a ridculous piece of swill. And again, it would be funnier were it not for the fact that the UNINFORMED anti-gun crowds truly will grab onto something like that as a bit of a representation of what is now going to go on in the parks. Absolutely pathetic and ignorant.

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    Camper Reply:

    Bill –
    I don’t really get why people like you that have to make every issue about party politics. Do you honestly think that all DEMs are ‘anti-guns’ and that all REPs are ‘gun-lovers’? How absolutely short-sighted and ridiculous is that! Why is that people are not entitled to have their own opinions, without you calling their opinions inflammatory . . . ridiculous . . uniformed . . . , etc.

    Not that it should matter but I happen to be a registered REPUBLICAN –yes, you heard me right. A REP who doesn’t happen to agree with you!! Suprised? I’d suggest a bit of tolerance for others opinions if I was you Bill. Don’t assume people are stupid because they don’t agree with you . . . it doesn’t help make your case.

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Main Entry: in·flam·ma·to·ry
    Pronunciation: \in-ˈfla-mə-ˌtȯr-ē\
    Function: adjective
    Date: circa 1711
    1 : tending to excite anger, disorder, or tumult : seditious
    2 : tending to inflame or excite the senses

    This is exactly what videos such as the one you posted are. As well, this is exactly what ignorant statements such as your camping vs imaginary bear statement are.

    And you are correct, I did inject politics into it. But if you have any concept of the politics on the national level and the debate that the topic of the 2nd Amendment brings about, nothing I said is untrue. It is a well know universal concept, that generally Dems are against guns. Simplistic, yes. Are there Moderates on either side? yes, absolutely. But, Party politics as a whole, there is nothing surprising about this revelation.

    I don’t assume you are stupid. Merely uninformed and ignorant of the facts. That vs. stupid are 2 very different things. I give you the benefit of having a clue, but not being informed when it comes to the reality as it is around firearms. Which is more than I can say for many in the anti-gun crowd. Those that like to perpetuate this theory that people who exercise their 2nd Amendment rights are nothing more than stupid hicks who go off shooting their gun in the middle of the woods at every little sound.

    Someone with a brain (Elitist) Reply:

    Wow, I totally agree with you, Bill. How are we supposed to walk the mean streets of Wayne or the ominous trails of VF park without packing heat? Thank god and Charleton Heston that we are the truly smart ones in this debate!

    Put your gun away, coward and stop hiding behind the 2nd amendment. No English monarchs are marching up to your door anytime soon, although I know the thought of a brown man in the White House probably keeps you snuggled up tight with your guns in the wee hours. Stop living in fear, and know that no one fears you, gun or no gun. We just fear your sub-par intelligence.

    Bill L. Reply:

    Thank you very much for proving my point. I appreciate your help, elitist. Thank you for trying to insinuate I am a racist. Thank you for trying to play the part of the wise parent who knows better than me. You have illustrated the attitude perfectly.

    Bravo….

  9. Wow, Elitist, that was harsh. I’m guessing Bill L. is NOT “bitter and clinging to his guns” for any other reason than his firm belief in an individual’s right to bear arms.

    But he is just plain wrong that the Democratic Party as a whole wants to limit gun ownership. How about Virginia’s Sen. Jim Webb, our own Senate candidate, Joe Sestak, Congr. Patrick Murphy, former Sen. and Cabinet member Bill Richardson, former President Clinton , and most elected Democrats from the midwest and western states.

    Even the Democratic 6th Dist. Congressional candidate Manan Trivedi, who hails from Berks County where hunting is popular, doesn’t support stricter gun laws – just better enforcement of current laws.

    Let Democrats speak for themselves, please…….There is no single position on guns among them….. Those most supportive of stricter gun laws believe that easy access to guns has allowed straw purchasers to supply guns to criminals and fueled the astronomical homicide rate in this country. There is pretty strong evidence that this is true.

    In my view, gun lovers’ cynical response – that criminals will get their hands on guns no matter what – is not a good enough reason to open the floodgates to unlimited purchases, especially at gun shows where no criminal checks are required.

    I’d love to hear a defense of the gun show exception…

    It seems to me, there’s a middle ground here – even though personally, I do not own a gun or have any desire to lay my hands on one.

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  10. Good points, Kathy. Thank you. I had indicated earlier that I do know that there are moderates on both sides of the Party system I realize that not all Democrats are anti, and not all Republicans are Pro. Just that, as a whole, The anti-gun people tend to fall more in line with the ideals that most suit the Democratic party. And that the pro gun camp tends to fall more in line with Republican.

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  11. John — Maybe guns in VFNHP is not a priority in the big scheme of things, but I think it is a very important local news item. I for one was very tired of the bickering back and forth over St. Davids and sidewalks. Of course, then we had to watch the guns in the park become a Dem vs. Rep topic. Can’t people have independent thoughts without wrapping everything around party politics. For some of us, it really gets tiresome!

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  12. This law change will have zero effect on anything. People already carry.

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    John W Reply:

    I would agree with you as it pertains to VFNP.

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  13. Guess we should all be wearing hunters orange… maybe it will even become the new black. The reality is accidents still do happen when people carry guns… guns that they’ve obtained properly. See article from 1990 when a Maine mom was killed in her own backyard by a hunter b/c she didn’t know not to wear white mittens.

    http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20113512,00.html

    BTW has anyone googled the amount of yearly gun related accidents?

    Lastly, I get that you have the “right” to own a semi-automatic, what I don’t get is the why you feel you need one?

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  14. A 20 year old article? Really?

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    Disillusioned in Tredyffrin Reply:

    So things have changed w/ guns in 20 years? People using guns now are different?

    You didn’t tell me the “why” you feel the need to carry/use a semi-automatic weapon. Is someone stalking you & you need to blow them into a million little pieces?

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    Ma'at Reply:

    more importantly, why do YOU feel the need to tell people what kind of weapon they can or cannot carry to protect themselves (and others). is it because you are smarter than everyone else?

    BTW has anyone googled the amount of yearly car related accidents? perhaps you could call for a ban on cars in the park!

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    Bill L. Reply:

    Not that guns have changed in 20 years. Merely that incidents like that are rare enough that you had to go back that far.

    And you are correct, if didn’t tell you why. Why? Because I have no obligation to explain it to you at all. Do you need to explain to me ‘why’ you should have Freedom of Speech? Same thing. It’s not for you or anyone else to decide ‘why’ I need to do any of that.

    Nice flair for the dramatic too, with your choice of words. Again using “semi-automatic” because it sounds good. Stalking. “Blow them into a million little pieces”…. When you are ready to discuss it like an adult and not a child with a penchant for exaggeration, let me know.

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    Disillusioned in Tredyffrin Reply:

    So how do you explain this one away… granted it didn’t involve a death or a semi-automatic weapon. But it was 2006, involved the VP of the USA… Oops… guess everyone makes a mistake w/ a gun once in a while.

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/02/12/cheney/index.html

    Exactly what about my opinion is childish… the part where I don’t bow your opinion being the only one there is.

    Glad I don’t need have gun to feel powerful. Why would I ever want to live w/ knowing I’ve taken anyone’s life, ever.

    Bill L. Reply:

    No explaining it away at all. Except of course, the fact that it has absolutely no bearing on the discussion at hand.

    Childish due to your inability to debate the topic without exaggerating and using terms and phrases meant to invoke an emotional response rather than an intelligent one.

    And I don’t need a gun to feel powerful at all. Not at all.

    And you say “Why would I ever want to live w/ knowing I’ve taken anyone’s life, ever”. I honestly would not want to live with that either. But do you want to know what I really would not to live with? The fact that my wife, children, or even a stranger was hurt or killed and I didn’t do everything in my power to stop it. It seems from many of the arguments that what most anti-gun people seem to think is that gun carriers will just pull out there guns and start shooting wildly, anywhere. It is a last resort. Lethal force is a last resort when myself, a family member, or even a stranger are in imminent life or death danger. If it comes down to a bad guy or an innocent life being lost, I won’t hesitate to save that innocent’s life. Not at all. If someone is willing to have such wreckless disregard for anothers life as to try and take something that is not theirs with lethal force, well, I didn’t ask for that role, but he is the one who set his path down that road. I don’t want to do that, but that is the choice that was made by him or her, not me.

    So like I said, the thing I really wouldn’t want to live with is the fact that something happened somewhere and an innocent person lost their life because I was to scared to do anything to help prevent that.

    It’s the difference between protecting yourself, or HOPING SOMEONE ELSE gets there to do that for you.

  15. An interesting topic and discussion. I am a supporter of the second amendment which allows a right to bear arms. However, as with all other Constitutional amendments, it should not confer an absolute right. For example, the right to bear arms is restricted in place (federal buildings, courtrooms, etc.) and person (felons). Just as the first amendment is not absolute, neither is the second amendment.

    People can make it a political issue, because it is a principal debating point between the GOP and the Dems, but there are individuals with different views on all sides of the spectrum. I am a Republican who has a permit to conceal and owns a handgun. However, I do not support the second amendment as this unlimited vehicle to allow all persons to carry all types of weapons. Specifically, I support an assault weapons ban (yes, I know a Republican that doesn’t support someone’s right to own an AR-15). A regulation of that type, in my view, is reasonable. Others may differ.

    In terms of the specific right to carry in National Parks, I don’t think this changes much. People most likely already carried in the parks. Those without a legal right to do so will still find a way to have a firearm and no amount of regulation will stop that.

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  16. I guess I have been living in my ‘rose-colored glasses’ world for way too long. I was genuinely shocked about the new federal law permitting guns in a national park.

    Then all these comments came rushing in, and I discover that many people not only support the 2nd amendment, but have permits to conceal and that they actually own guns.

    When people started pointing out that people carry guns to the KofP mall, the theaters, on the trains, shopping . . . I just couldn’t believe it — I had absolutely no idea. I understand that the 2nd amendment right to bear arms allows people to carry guns, I just naively didn’t know that people around here really owned guns and carried them.

    What I learned from this discussion is that it doesn’t really matter if you take guns in to Valley Forge National Historical Park or not . . . people are carrying the guns around anyways, so there’s no need to stop at the park entrance. Wow, was I ever naive on this subject.

    Fascinating information, really. Thank you all for your frankness on the subject, I just had no idea.

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  17. Really? I can post suppporting information too.

    A very good article that someone pointed out to me a while back:
    http://thebroadside.freedomblogging.com/2009/05/11/debunking-specious-arguments-against-concealed-carry-pt-1/

    From the NRA’s website, and this is just from one month (and no, I am not a member).:

    Criminal justice instructor Michael Minto was exiting the Kaplan Career Institute when he saw a man being viciously stabbed. According to police, Minto ran onto the scene, drew a handgun for which he has a permit to carry and ordered the attacker to drop the knife. The suspect fled. The victim was treated and released from the hospital. “[If not for Minto], we might be talking about someone who died,” said Swatara Township, Pa., Deputy Police Chief Jason Umberger. “There are not many citizens out there that would have the courage to take that action.” (The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA, 12/08/09)
    ——————————————————————————–
    Fairfax County, Va., police officer Bud Walker says a resident had time to get his handgun because an armed burglar “was making quite a bit of noise trying to get into the house.” The resident made noise as well in an attempt to scare off the suspect. “The burglar … continued to try to get in even though he knew there was someone inside the house. Our experience is that most burglars … tend to target houses that are not occupied.” The suspect forced his way into the home and opened fire, wounding the resident, who returned fire and forced the intruder from his home. The resident is expected to recover. (The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 12/18/09)
    ——————————————————————————–
    A married couple drove into the cul-de-sac leading to their home and parked in the driveway. They got out of the car and began walking toward their home, when three men sprang out of nowhere and attempted to rob them. The husband was better prepared to defend his life and that of his wife than the men expected. A concealed-carry permit holder, the husband drew a handgun and shot one of the robbers, killing him. The dead suspect’s accomplices fled. (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA, 12/14/09)
    ——————————————————————————–
    Evil people who would prey on the weaknesses of others may perceive someone like Gary Wroblewski, who uses a wheelchair, as an easy victim. Wroblewski, however, is a man who takes his safety seriously, so when he had a late knock at his door, he grabbed his handgun. “I was suspicious,” he recalls. “I didn’t really want to open it, but I did.” He found the man who knocked, but then a masked man with a history of violent arrests leapt from the bushes and knocked over Wroblewski’s chair. “He hit the door and I went tumbling over and just pulled the gun up and started firing,” Wroblewski explains. The intruder was killed. His accomplice fled the scene. (WKMG-TV, Orlando, FL, 12/15/09)
    ——————————————————————————–
    Just as a man was getting ready for church, someone rang his doorbell. As he went to answer the door, he saw someone breaking into his truck. Meanwhile, the man heard the garage door opening and what sounded like someone else trying to gain access to the home. He didn’t know how many suspects were present or if they were armed. “I felt like a caged animal backed into a hole and trying to get out,” the homeowner said. He got a 12-ga. shotgun and fired two shots at one of the assailants. The wounded burglar ran to a nearby car and was joined by a female suspect and fled the garage. They sped away, but the male was arrested when he sought treatment for his wounds. (The Sun-News, Myrtle Beach, SC, 12/08/09)
    ——————————————————————————–
    Police say a perpetrator knocked on Harold Compenstine’s door, announced, “This is a robbery!” and put a shotgun in his face. The homeowner slammed the door on the suspect and yelled for a relative to get his gun. The suspect fled, but decided to risk his luck again. He knocked on the door of another home and again pointed a shotgun at the residents inside. One of the residents ran for his own gun and for the second time in one night the suspect had to run rather than face an armed citizen. The suspect remains at large. No word on whether he’s given thought to changing career paths. (Sun-Star, Merced, CA, 12/10/09)
    ——————————————————————————–
    With a gun to his face, a Pizza Hut cashier stashed several hundred dollars into a bag. Hearing the commotion, police say a deliveryman with a concealed-carry permit crouched in the back of the store. When the robber walked toward him, the deliveryman gave a verbal warning. Instead the robber went for his gun, forcing the deliveryman to draw his 9mm handgun and fire a shot. The robber will be arrested pending his release from the hospital. (The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, IN, 12/24/09)

    [Reply]

  18. The Pennsylvania Constitution provides, as part of the Declaration of Rights:

    “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” Pa. Const. Art. 1, Sec. 21.

    This is textually broader than the US Constitution, in that the state constitution specifically refers to self-defense.

    [Reply]

  19. Its about time this ban was lifted. Just for the record, when you walk down the street or into a store you are likely passing by plenty of legally armed citizens. As a matter of fact Pattye, in greeting people with a hug I think you should know you have hugged armed people :). Yes with semi auto’s. I can’t say who because that would defeat the whole purpose of concealed carry. Why panic at the thought of running past someone on a path in Valley Forge Park that may be armed. Armed citizens make things safer, period. You can listen to the main stream media’s hysteria and burry your head or you can look at real statistics and educate yourself. I suggest the latter.
    As far as being bothered by all the gun crime, you may want to look at some news papers from one hundred years ago. 80 to 90 million legal gun owners in this country, statistically you are more likely to die at the hands of your doctor :0. No offense to any MD’s out there.
    I am a strong supporter of the second amendment and believe in more guns less jerks. Don’t get me wrong, I respect anyone that feels as though calling 911 makes them safe enough, after all if you are not comfortable with a firearm then the rest of us are probably a little safer you don’t carry :). Police do a great job of solving crimes, unfortunately most often after you are a victim. Our founding fathers GUARANTEED us the right to be able to defend ourselves and in my opinion anyone that is in favor of restricting that right from the citizens “the people” of this country is a traitor.

    Guns are the firewall that protects all our freedom’s, take them away and you might as well leave your pants at your ankles. For those that seem to be hung up on semi-auto’s or auto’s for that matter, I have a news flash campers: the second amendment does not protect a right to hunt, so take your flint lock and hang it on your mantle. We have a God given right to protect life, property and freedom. If you look at all conflicts around this globe you will see protecting freedom requires some heavy firepower.
    In Heller vs Washington DC it was argued by the military that the intent is to have all citizens familiar with the military weaponry as well as be armed. In this way this country can stand and defend itself to the last man….now that makes me feel safe. The M-16 is the weapon that is generally viewed as our military’s standard. The citizens of this Country should have at the minimum equal firepower that of any foreign army that threatens America. Pattye any time you would like, I would be glad take you to the range and help you prepare to be the citizen our Founding Fathers wanted you to be.

    The day we hand our guns over is the day we hand our freedom over….“Live free or die”. This is not Utopia it is America and like it or not there will always be those out there that want to hurt you. Personally I would rather be prepared and never need to use it than make my wife a widow waiting for the police to put the criminal who did it in jail. That’s reality, and thank God our Founding Fathers had the foresight to know this over 200 years ago.

    Giovanni D’Amato

    [Reply]

  20. I have enjoyed reading all the posts on this blog but finally feel like responding to say this is absolutely a fantastic debate. Patty’s own response validates just how much we do not know about each other. We suburbanites think guns are in the city, the South and the hick towns of america. I think the reality is that people who make the effort to acquire a carry permit are going to generally be thoughtful and conscientious people — as opposed to those who use loopholes to acquire them and hide them. I don’t know anything about the loopholes that Kate offered above, but I do know that it’s hard to feel safe anywhere nowadays, and it’s not because I’m afraid of a gun accident. I could never use a gun, so I could never own one, but I would certainly appreciate a thoughtful gun owner — who was trained and as calm as Bill L has been in addressing the hyperbole here — if I was at the mall and a shooter was threatening me. I don’t hunt — don’t like the idea of having a gun anyplace I go — but guns don’t kill people, people kill people. So I guess I’m not anti-gun after all. Thanks to this discussion, I see that.

    [Reply]

  21. I have come to differentiate between law-abiding people who own guns for self-protection and those committing gun crimes.Overwhemingly, the former are not part of the problem. It creeps me out to think that everywhere i go, people are packing, but I’ll deal with it….

    Bill L. has provided stories about people who’ve been saved by a gun, but there are many others – innocent children caught in the crossfire, careless teens involved in gun play, battered spouses, homeowners who’ve walked in on an armed robber/ burglar, etc who have died at the hands of a gun. Often an illegal one.

    The mentally ill young man who killed dozens of people at Virginia Tech had no trouble buying an arsenal of weapons.. Too many mentally unstable people and violent felons get their hands on guns.

    And that’s the problem.

    The gun show loophole allows unlicensed sellers of guns and ammunition to sell without keepijng any record of buyers or conducting criminal background checks. Somewhere between 25% and 50% of sellers are not licensed. Most states do not require universal background checks at gun shows.

    This loophole is not part of your 2nd amendment freedom. I did a little research and found that Pennsylvania has largely closed this loophole. But it does not require universal background checks on all firearms sold at gun shows – just handgun sales.

    The focus of this discussion need not be on defending your right to own and/or carry a gun if you’re a law-abiding citizen. No one questions it. It should be about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill

    At least that’s what this Democrat cares about..

    [Reply]

  22. Agreed kate – except the harder it is to follow the rules, the more likely people are to violate them. The price we pay for security is liberty — and the price we pay for liberty is security…hard lesson to accept. Isn’t gun control something like airport security? Do you really feel safer now that they pay people down ? Isn’t it true taht someone hell bent on getting a gun is going to get one — ? I don’t know the solution — but I believe the question poses inordinate challenges. And the hyperbole posted way above — semi-automatic jargon and sarcasm in the face of explanation is what creates so much conflict. It’s right to life — right to bear arms – right to vote – ….right to free speech. I think it’s great we are learning from each other.

    [Reply]

  23. Kate,
    the anti gunners are very successful at misrepresenting facts. I say this because of your quote on un licensed gun dealers at gun shows, the “gun show loophole”. Kate have you ever been to a gun show in PA? My guess is no. I have…to many. There is “insta check” at gun shows. That’s right, required background check for a sale. What they are portraying as a loophole is a farce.
    Lets say I own several guns and at a gun show I meet someone interested in buying them, we meet somewhere else and make the sale without paperwork, that’s illegal. That’s your “loophole”. What they don’t say is this goes on anywhere, it doesn’t have to be at a gun show. There is no loophole just people who choose to break the law, it doesn’t matter where they choose to do it. Do you see how things are spun? Trust only what you see and know not what your told.
    How to keep criminals from shooting people? Hmmm. I have a great idea lets make it illegal. Well that doesn’t work does it. Unfortunately all we can do is punish those who commit crime once they have done so. They’re will always be bad people and there will always be those who lose loved ones to tragedy whether guns or drunk drivers, stabbings, accidents, medical mistakes on and on….. Stripping away the rights that this, the greatest nation on earth was founded on will never change that. Sh*t happens that’s life unfortunately, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Anyone that commits a crime with a gun under federal law should get 5 years in addition to what ever charges they may have. Very often these criminals plea out and are kept in the state system never getting the time deserved. Rather than go on about the prosecution problems I recommend you google “project exile”, again educate yourself and learn the truth.
    Thanks

    [Reply]

    Tina Reply:

    @Giovanni-

    I appreciate your candidness on the subject, but I am unclear how the VA Tech shooter’s ability to purchase alot of firepower was “misrepresented”? I was also under the impression that it was legal for private citizens to purchase guns (not handguns) from other pirvate citizens without the “burden” of paperwork and background checks? I hope I’m wrong about that…

    As a self proclaimed bleeding heart liberal, the very idea of possessing or using guns scares me a bit. But having grown up in a city that is quickly becoming more well known for its gun related homicide rate than its cheesesteaks, I find the argument in favor of enforcing current gun control laws more pertinent than the debate regarding “rights”. As someone very astutely said earlier in this thread, people who want guns will fund ways to acquire guns, legally or illegally. Criminals obviously more often than not, choose an illegal route to acquire firearms.

    As a current resident of Chester County, I have the pleasure of knowing some fantastically responsible gun owners and quite frankly, I’m glad that they own guns. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, the problem, as many of you have already said, is not responsible gun owners… How do we deal with the irresponsible and possibly criminal contingent?

    And as far a carrying guns in Valley Forge Park is concerned, I’m with you Pattye, it is always incredibly surprising to when I hear about conceal and carries in places like the KOP Mall or Wegman’s simply because I personally don’t think I need or want to carry a weapon to feel safe.

    [Reply]

  24. Tredyffrin Township Park Ordinance is no longer available online.
    Wonder what’s going on with this?

    http://forum.pafoa.org

    Preemption Violation – Tredyffrin Township
    Dear BOS

    I am a resident of Tredyffrin Township and a member of an organization called The Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association. I would like to bring to the attention of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors a township ordinance that appears to be in violation of state law. I became aware of this issue when I recently visited Louis D’Ambrosia Park and read the park rules sign posted there.

    Further research led me to Chapter 138 of the Township Code, Parks and Playgrounds, Section 3 Regulations, Subsection J, which states the following:

    “No person, other than township active duty police officers employed in the execution of their duties, shall carry or possess or discharge or use firearms or weapons of any type in a township park. [Amended 6-1-1998 by Ord. No. HR-270]”

    This law is in violation of Title 18, Chapter 61, Subchapter A (otherwise known as The Uniform Firearms Act), specifically §6120 (a) that states:

    “General rule: No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this commonwealth.”

    The preemption statute I quoted was passed in 1995. I am unsure when regulation J was passed. It may have been in place before 1995, explaining why it could have been overlooked. Unfortunately there was no grandfathering of existing limitations when The Uniform Firearms Act was passed. Regulation “J” as it stands today is invalid with regards to the carrying or possessing a firearm in a township park.

    I know some people might want to know why someone would want to carry a firearm in a township park. The answer may be as simple as they carry a firearm daily. I know I do. But that question is not really the issue.

    The preemption statute I quoted is very important for Pennsylvanians that legally carry a firearm, in that it removes the problem of a traveling citizen running afoul of a myriad of local laws prohibiting where you can and cannot carry a firearm. In other words, licensed or otherwise legal carriers of firearms in Pennsylvania can carry everywhere not prohibited by state or federal law.

    Of particular interest to Tredyffrin Township is that since this rule is unenforceable, there could be negative consequences should an unknowing person, or even one choosing to ignore the rule knowing it is null and void, happen to be cited or otherwise confronted. If a police officer were to enforce such rule or ordinance, wrongful arrest and other charges could be laid on the officer, the police department and Tredyffrin Township– not an inexpensive proposition.

    I respectfully ask that the Board of Supervisors look into this matter. Please let me know how you and your colleagues will proceed with bringing Tredyffrin Township in compliance with state law. A copy of §6120 is also attached.

    Awaiting your response, I remain,

    Most respectfully yours,

    I sent the first letter on September 22nd. After receiving no response, I sent the following e-mail to the Chairman on October 7th.

    Quote:

    From: xxxxxxx xxxxx [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxx@verizon.net]
    Sent: Tue 10/7/2008 6:12 PM
    To: Warren E. Kampf
    Subject: Initial correspondence

    Warren,
    Several weeks ago I sent a letter to you and your fellow supervisors
    regarding a township park ordinance. As of today I have not received a
    response. Did you receive my initial correspondence?

    Thank You,

    Today I received this reply

    Quote:
    Warren E. Kampf wrote:
    we did and we are looking into it.

    My response tonight was;

    Quote:
    Warren,
    Thanks for getting back to me. I assume the Township Solicitor will be in touch with me when he is complete?

    Thanks,

    Since they meet twice a month, every other Monday, it shouldn’t be difficult to attend a meeting if I fail to hear from the solicitor soon. I also was contacted by a local newspaper reporter and have been keeping him in the loop regarding progress. I will continue to update as things move forward.

    Re: Preemption Violation–Tredyffrin Township–Chester County

    ——————————————————————————–

    Update
    6 days ago the Chairman sent me this reply

    Quote:
    Warren E. Kampf wrote:
    we did and we are looking into it.

    My response to that was;

    Quote:
    Warren,
    Thanks for getting back to me. I assume the Township Solicitor will be in touch with me when he is complete?

    Thanks,

    Yesterday I received this;

    Quote:
    Either he will or someone from township will.

    Nice one sentence responses I get from the Chairman. You would think the least he would do is properly address the person he is communicating with and maybe sign the end of the e-mail.

    Re: Preemption Violation–Tredyffrin Township–Chester County

    ——————————————————————————–

    That lets you know how important you are, in his eyes.

    Perhaps it’s time to start campaigning to elect a new chairman?
    __________________

    Re: Preemption Violation–Tredyffrin Township–Chester County

    ——————————————————————————–

    Good news to report here. I received a letter on Friday from the township solicitor, Thomas Hogan, requesting I call him to discuss the letter I sent the supervisors. Around 2:30 pm I called his office. After exchanging greetings with him, the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m in receipt of your letter, and am in complete agreement with your legal position.” I almost fell off my chair.

    After reading threads about defiant townships, boroughs, etc, this is not the answer I expected. He also informed me he made a call to the Chief of Police, Andy Chambers. He said he would probably speak with him over the weekend and inform him that the department could not enforce the ordinance because it violates the state preemption law. I almost fell off the chair again.

    In the next few minutes of our discussion Mr. Hogan asked me if I had any immediate concerns, upcoming events in a township park, or if I was worried about this particular ordinance. I reiterated what I said in my letter to the supervisors about gun carriers dodging a myriad of local regulations and if someone were falsely arrested due to this ordinance it would not be right.

    I then told him I was happy to see he was in agreement with my concerns and stated the next steps needed to be a repeal/revision of the ordinance, and modifying the signs in the township parks. He said he would speak with the supervisors about how they would like to handle the ordinance part of my concerns. Then came the sign issue. He went on to say the township has a lot of parks and signs and the cost associated with changing all the signs would be an expensive proposition, but next time they change the signs they could modify them.

    I told him they could either cover up the part about firearms, or heat up the stick on letters and peel them off. He said he would contact the public works department for how to handle this. Since he was very cooperative and understanding of my concerns, I didn’t want to press him too hard on the sign issue yet. He seems dedicated to addressing these two issues and bringing them to a resolution that is to my satisfaction, so I will continue to work with him. He said I should hear back from him in about one week. He said I might need to appear before the supervisors with him and ask for the ordinance to be repealed/modified. This depends on how the supervisors wish to handle it.

    This is how all of the preemption violations we contest should be handled. Mr. Hogan’s professionalism was very refreshing. While many of us are quick to fire off letters and e-mails to persons who infringe on our rights, we should also thank those who work with us in the preservation of those rights and follow the rule of law. Mr. Hogan’s e-mail address is thogan@chescolaw.com.

    I will update this thread as soon as I speak with Mr. Hogan.

    [Reply]

  25. It is now more than a year and a half ago since the law allowed private, law abiding citizens to carry, legally, concealed firearms in Valley Forge National Park. It has been argued that shootings would increase once this law went into effect. In the past year, how many shootings have occurred in VFNP? How many times have law abiding citizens with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, drawn their firearm to settle a dispute, or as some have stated, shoot deer?? Most citizens who legally carry concealed firearms do train in both the proper handling of the tool, and also understand the law. Sadly, at times much better than some Law Enforcement Officers. LEO have a tremendous duty, and with their ever increasing duties at times do not have time to acquaint themselves with all the changes occurring. A law abiding citizen understands that carrying a firearm represents a major responsibility, one that is not taken lightly. One is trained to avoid to the utmost extent any confrontation, and only use a firearm in the event of a life threatening act on oneself or a loved one. My family and I, including two vivacious twins (4 years old) enjoy the beauty of VF at least 4 times a week, and not once have I felt I or my precious family have been in danger because firearms are now permitted. Thank you. Respecfully your, John Kingsfiled, PA

    [Reply]

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