Lawsuit in Keystone State seeks to reverse town's zoning regulation on FFLs

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File

Last week a lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania concerning unconstitutional zoning requirements. Unfortunately our countrymen over in the Keystone State have been dealing with a big bout of infringements that don’t seem to be slowing. The thing that always makes my ears perk up at attention a bit in these situations are all the Jersey guys that said they fled across the border for liberty, and now the formerly solid Second Amendment friendly state is turning a deep purple. My friends over at Firearms Owners Against Crime alerted me of the latest filing.


Today, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince and attorney Dillon Harris of the Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., filed suit in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Firearm Owners Against Crime – Institute for Legislative, Legal, and Educational Action (FOAC-ILLEA), Shot Tec, LLC, and Grant Schmidt against Lower Merion Township over its recently enacted ordinance regulating (out of existence) Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) in the township.

As explained in the 37 page Complaint, in violation of numerous constitutional and statutory provisions and in outright defiance of the Commonwealth Court’s recent en banc decision in FOAC, et al. v. City of Pittsburgh that “that an ordinance will be preempted so long as it touches upon or relates to the field of firearm regulation ‘in any manner,’” Lower Merion Township enacted Ordinance 4267, which regulates zoning districts from which firearms may be transferred or otherwise sold. While the Township originally contended that it only bans FFLs as home occupations and from most, but not all, other zoning districts (which is unlawful in and of itself as a result of preemption), Ordinance 4267 is actually completely exclusionary as it requires a copy of the issued FFL and state licenses to be on file with the Township to comply with the “conditional use;” yet, one must certify, subject to the penalties of perjury, that he/she/it is in compliance with local zoning to obtain an FFL; thereby resulting in a chicken-or-the-egg impossibility of never being able to come into compliance with the requirements of Ordinance 4267.

Given the impact on the constitutional and statutory rights of numerous individuals in Lower Merion Township, a motion for an injunction has already been filed with the court, seeking to permanently enjoin Lower Merion Township from violating those individuals’ rights.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an unlawful firearm regulation or policy, contact FICG today to discuss your options.


The regulations being challenged include a town ordinance that relegates firearm dealers to only be able to conduct business in 4 of the eleven zoning districts in the town, outlawed the practice of in-home FFLs, and requires FFLs to comply with twelve “conditional use” standards not founded in statute or law that must be abided by.

The conditional use standards are summarized as follows:

  • FFLs cannot operate within 1000 feet of a school unless they can demonstrate compliance with 18 U.S.C. section 922(q)
  • FFLs shall keep produce copies of all licenses to be held by the Township
  • An FFL shall identify any fictitious name under which the FFL will operate, the street and mailing address for the business, and the business’s reasonable hours of operation
  • Windows and doors accessible from public spaces must be smash-resistant.
  • FFLs shall maintain a general alarm system that includes glass protection, motion sensors, door and access panel contact monitoring, and has a panic button.
  • FFLs shall have a video surveillance system.
  • FFLs must maintain several “safety plans.” (whatever the heck those are)

I reached out to FOAC-ILLEA President Jim Stoker and he made the following statement about the ordinance and litigation:

The leadership in Lower Merion seems convinced that they not only do not answer to the legislature of this Commonwealth, but they do not answer to the Pennsylvania Constitution as well.  Our Constitution clearly states, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”  Yet these would be feudal barons think they can just violate the rights of every citizen at will.  Our promise to them is that when we win this one, we will continue to watch them.  If they’d violated preemption once,  maybe we believe it was oversight or ignorance, but twice?  That’s willful disregard for the rights of the citizen.  And we will be once again asking the legislature and our governor to give Title 18 Section 6120 more teeth to hold these elected officials accountable and asking the Montgomery County District Attorney to prosecute.


Also speaking on behalf of FOAC was Vice President Klint Macro. Macro noted that Pennsylvania has a robust preemption law and said:

Title 18 Section 6120 clearly states that 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. This IS the law! When elected officials ignore the law, they are indeed committing a crime. It is despicable that Pennsylvanians have to protect themselves from violent criminals and local tyrant elected officials! Firearms Owners Against Crime ILLEA will continue to fight the “elected class” who act above the law and we will fight to empower our fellow Pennsylvanians who choose to take on the responsibility to arm themselves to be their own family first responders.

Thankfully the citizens of Pennsylvania has advocates like Prince, Harris, Stoker, and Macro. If it were not for the diligent and steadfast work of such law firms and advocacy groups, the Second Amendment would have died long ago. It’s unfortunate that in a post NYSRPA v. Bruen world we still need to deal with such awful legislation. The high court has spoken on the topic of arms, and it’s doubtful the township will be able to meet the appropriate burden of proof to defend their civil rights squishing regulations. We’ll be watching the progress of this litigation and report back with any updates.

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