Township Park Ordinance in Violation of State Law . . . so says resident and member of the Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association

A couple of days ago I received an anonymous comment from gunrights-tredyffrintownship.  This was an interesting comment for several reasons.  Those of you who have been following Community Matters will recall my fascination and naivete over the recent firearms in national parks legislation.  That discussion extended to a broader discussion of gun control in the community.  Of all the issues that have been discussed on Community Matters, I think this topic generated more dinner table conversation and heated debate  than anything else.  Recently I met someone for the first time and they brought up the gun control discussion on Community Matters  . . . go figure.

This brings me to today’s posting.  Below you will find a series of email exchanges between gunrights-tredyffrintownship (an anonymous Community Matters commentor using that name) and the Board of Supervisors and discussion with Tom Hogan.  At issue is the signage in our township parks in regards to guns.  When it comes to the ability to carry guns in our township parks, apparently Tredyffrin Township’s park ordinance and signs are in violation of Pennsylvania state law.  I never read the small print on our township park signs but I guess I will the next time I visit.  This person has all of his/her emails with the township posted on the Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association forum, located at:  http://forum.pafoa.org.  It appeared that the email trail ended with a conversation with Tom Hogan late last year.  There was an addendeum to the comment that stated the resident was waiting for a further update in regards to the park signage, but so far in 2010 has not received anything further. 

There is a cost to changing the signs (the commentator offers suggestions) . . . what do you think?  Should our park signs be corrected?  From the timeline of this email discussion, it would suggest that this person has been waiting for an answer.  Do you think that it should be addressed at a Board of Supervisors meeting? 

Preemption Violation – Tredyffrin Township

Dear Board of Supervisors,

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]
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.

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7 Comments

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  1. I applaud the Township for their response. We are not going to stand against the legal tide on this, and we should just change the ordinance as quietly and as quickly as possible.

    I am totally opposed to spending any taxpayer money to change signs. Those mounting this campaign are already carrying guns in the parks (wow!), the police are not taking any action, and we don’t want to do anything to encourage anyone else to bring a gun into a park.

    It’s time to get priorities straight. At a time when the heroic Police and Emergency Services, that we do in fact charge to protect us, are coping with budget cutbacks, how can we in all conscience spend precious and limited township resources on something with no practical consequences?

    The BoS probably has to have a public meeting to change an ordinance?

    [Reply]

  2. Quick question “Guns Kill People”… Why “quietly”? As if it’s some dirty, hush-hush that that RIGHT be kept a secret…

    And then why the “wow!” that people are carrying guns in parks? Did you miss the entire episode of discussions previous?

    You seem to naively act as if the simple act of a lawful gun owner carrying out his Right to protect himself and his family by carrying a firearm is dangerous and promotes bad things to happen. Please educate yourself as to the realities and not just your ignorance and pre-conceived notions on the subject.

    Oh, and sign tape or a heat gun (used to remove letters from signs) are pretty inexpensive, and guaranteed, something the Township Public Works already has in its posession. I agree with fiscal constraints, but be more realistic, and less dramatic.

    [Reply]

  3. The Board has to jump through a lot of hoops to amend or repeal an ordinance. The Board only can amend or repeal an ordinance by passing another ordinance. See Tredyffrin Home Rule Charter Section 6.01(H) (“[T]hose powers and duties of the Board shall be exercised by ordinance which . . . (H) Amend or repeal any any ordinance previously adopted) (http://www.tredyffrin.org/pdf/ordinances/home-rule-charter.pdf).

    The procedures for passing an ordinance are in Section 603 of the HRC. In short, the Board must “initially consider” the ordinance at a public Board meeting. If the Board approves the proposed ordinance, it then has to advertise it. After the proposed ordinance has been advertised, the Board can vote on the final ordinance at a Board meeting. If the Board adopts the final ordinance, it then must advertise it again. The final ordinance will become effective 31 days after adoption.

    [Reply]

  4. What would happen if a gun owner decided to assert this right and openly carry a firearm into a Township park? Would they immediately be perceived as a threat?( I know I’d be scared if I saw somebody toting a gun around a playground.) I hope for the gun owner’s sake that the Tredyffrin Police are aware that the ordinance is unenforceable.

    [Reply]

  5. Who really cares if a gunowner decides to assert his right? If he is legally authorized to do so, so be it.

    The amount of ignorance and preconceived notions when it comes to firearms would laughable were it not such a depressing display of ignorance.

    Some of you act as if a person legally carrying a firearm is bound to just whip it out at any given second and just go on a shooting spree. Guess what people, there are people around you every single day that are either currently carrying concealed, or do so on occasion. The ignorance and hysteria caused by people that know nothing of firearms is almost pathetic.

    [Reply]

  6. Bill L — You have been so patient up until now with all our naivete. Don’t lose it now. We need to believe that gun owners are as thoughtful and articulate as you are.

    As to our depressing display of ignorance — remember that ignorance comes from the root word meaning “do not know” — lacking education. The old saying “Ignorance is bliss” is probably pretty true about the average non-gun owner. I’ve admitted that I could never own a gun — would be too afraid of it and how it could be used under the wrong circumstances (arming my attacker). The only cure for ignorance is education — and I believe you have done a yeomen’s job of that on this blog. Don’t give up on us now.

    So much of this blog is about schools, so I’ll use an analogy we used to reference when a parent complained about a teacher and vice versa:

    Good parents have no idea how bad BAD parents are, and good teachers have no idea how bad BAD teachers are. If they did, they would understand the complaining.

    Well — responsible gun owners obviously don’t want to be lumped into bad gun owner stereotypes — but for most of us, the only time we hear about guns are when they are mis-used. You can’t have a Virginia Tech shooter if you don’t have guns. (Correspondingly, you could have limited his damage if more folks carried concealed weapons). But for the benefit of us unknowing people — please stick with educating and don’t let our lack of knowledge depress you.

    My understanding here is that the ordinance is wrong — so what we do about it is in the hands of the BOS — since you cannot enforce an illegal act…(i.e., have a sign that says something unconstitutional?) but maybe someone could get a gun group to donate new signs or help to repair the existing ones.

    [Reply]

  7. Bill L.
    I think you misunderstood me.
    I seems to me that an informed gun owner would be the one most likely to get hurt if the ordinance was not withdrawn. That’s all.
    It wasn’t my intention to add to the hysteria. I’ve been around guns all my life. Many of the guys in my family hunt – venison is nothing new to me. Also, some of my best friends have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. They even list me as a reference on their application.

    [Reply]

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