Firearms Policy Coalition files amicus brief in PA gun range case

Firearms Policy Coalition files amicus brief in PA gun range case
(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

The other day I reported on an amicus brief having been filed in a case known as Barris vs. Stroud Township. The case involves Jonathan Barris, a landowner in Stroud Township Pennsylvania, who has been fighting a town ordinance prohibiting him from constructing a shooting range on his own land. Just announced recently was that the Firearms Policy Coalition is also joining Barris by filing their own amicus brief. Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) is battling alongside the formerly mentioned amici, Firearms Owners Against Crime ILLEA, The Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League, The Beaver County Conservation and Sportsmen’s League, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, and The USCCA Legal Defense Foundation.

Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and FPC Action Foundation (FPCAF) announced the filing of an important brief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of Barris v. Stroud Township, which challenges the Township’s restrictions on shooting ranges. The brief can be viewed at FPCLegal.org.

“As the postenactment history reveals, after learning how valuable lifelong firearms practice was for resisting a tyrannical government, the Founders were sure to protect the right to train when forming their own government,” argues the brief. “Traditionally, restrictions on that right have been rare. Most historical training regulations promoted training. The relatively few that restricted the right were most often enacted to prevent fires or prevent shooting into crowded areas. There is no tradition that justifies the broad and burdensome regulation challenged here.”

“The history we provided proves that the right to train was not merely an ancillary Second Amendment right, but an essential element of the right to keep and bear arms,” said brief author and FPC Law’s Director of Constitutional Studies, Joseph Greenlee. “It also demonstrates that the Township’s severe restriction has no basis in America’s tradition of firearm regulation, which never disturbed shooting in safe locations on private land. The Township’s restriction violates the Second Amendment and will hopefully be ruled unconstitutional.”

The Barris case was settled in a lower court, having been found for Barris, however the township could not stomach defeat, so they appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Jonathan Barris is the owner of a 4.66 acre plot of land in Stroud Township. A 2011 ordinance strictly restricted firearm discharge within the limits of the Township’s jurisdiction. Barris submitted a permit application for the construction of a shooting range on his land in December of 2012. By the end of January 2013, Barris was denied. Barris fought the Township in a trial court, and the court found the decision to deny his permit within the bounds of the Second Amendment. That decision was reversed on appeal in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in 2020. Not being able to withstand defeat, the Township appealed to the PA Supreme court.

The announcement from FPC came at the heels of Cam reporting on a family complaining about being prohibited from having their own range on their property, also in Pennsylvania. The speculation in this situation, says the Dempster family, is that the motivations are racially driven.

The Dempster family thought they were moving to a little slice of heaven when they unpacked their belongings and settled in to their new home in Lower Alsace, Pennsylvania earlier this year. The quiet location was just a few minutes away from all the amenities that Lower Alsace and nearby Reading have to offer, but was still rural enough that they could set up a small range on their property where they could safely enjoy exercising their Second Amendment rights.

It sounds perfect, but the Dempsters say they’ve been put through hell over the past several months because of their range. Neighbors have complained about the sound of gunshots, and just a few weeks ago the township approved new zoning ordinances that will prohibit the family from ever using their range again; requiring private ranges to be permitted by authorities and limiting their existence only to properties larger than five acres found within a small rural conservation district.

I have no idea if racial animosity is behind the recent changes to Lower Alsace’s ordinance, but it doesn’t appear as if the family was in violation of any existing ordinance. Seems to me that if the township had to change its zoning laws to prohibit the Dempsters from shooting on their property, then they weren’t under any obligation to discuss “solutions,” and were better off seeking legal representation; something that’s apparently already been done.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on in Pennsylvania. The Province of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, and precepts that were embraced by the inhabitants were those of religious and political tolerance. It seems to me that the Keystone State has come a long way from its inception, with intolerance towards individual civil liberties in different areas of the commonwealth.

The filing of the brief by the FPC is an important one. While the Barris case is on appeal with the township seeking to overturn the lower court’s ruling, there’s always the possibility things can go south quickly. Although, given the scaffolding of the NYSRPA v. Bruen decision, the township is going to have a mighty feat ahead of themselves. We’ll be watching and reporting on the progress of this case, as well as the other madness that pops out of the former home of William Penn.