Right now, Pennsylvania’s preemption law is under assault. Pittsburgh has passed their assault weapon ban, which is being challenged in the courts. Philly has started enforcing an ordinance that’s been on the books for years that allows them to go after people who fail to report guns being stolen. Those two items alone are enough to cause worry. After all, these are huge cities with huge resources for such a challenge.
Yet it’s not just large cities in the state considering ignoring state law, either. Some smaller communities are considering it as well.
A statewide gun rights group is threatening legal action if Manheim Township approves a private school’s request to establish school zones where guns may not be sold.
An attorney for Firearm Owners Against Crime, in a letter to the township, says enacting the zoning amendment “would be unlawful” and “constitute a criminal offense.”
Joshua Prince, a Berks County attorney representing the group, said the state Constitution and state law prohibit municipalities from regulating firearms, including setting up a gun-shop-free school zone.
If the five-member board of commissioners approves the measure, Prince said, he will file private criminal complaints against commissioners who vote for it. He also will file a civil suit against the township, he said.
The commissioners have scheduled a vote for Monday, Jan. 27, on Lancaster Country Day School’s request to prohibit retail firearms sales within 1,000 feet of the lot lines of all schools and educational institutions in the township.
Honestly, this shouldn’t even be up for discussion.
For one thing, the lawful sale of firearms has no impact on the Lancaster Country Day School’s operations or those of any other schools’. It simply is a non-factor in how they go about their day-to-day operations of supposedly educating young people.
Nor does the lawful sale of firearms pose a safety risk to the students. While armed criminals may represent a risk to any of us, criminals aren’t buying their guns at gun stores. We know this for a fact.
As such, there’s absolutely no reason to even consider the measure, much less to grant it.
That would be true in a state without preemption. However, Pennsylvania has a preemption law on the books. Maintaining a “gun-free zone” were firearms can’t be bought or sold is a form of gun control. Oh, I’m sure they’ll call it a zoning issue, but it’s an issue that only impacts one particular type of lawful business. That’s going to be a much harder sell to a court.
My hope is that the commissioners will reject this request outright. After all, as I’ve noted, there’s simply no reason to grant it as there’s no impact on their operations as things currently stand, nor the operations of any other educational facility.
Yet if they do, I have a feeling that the township will not like what follows them afterward. They’ll go to court and they’ll lose. That’s just how it’s going to go. Keep in mind that even Pittsburgh is failing to gain any traction on their gun control scheme and they can afford better lawyers. Manheim Township would do well to keep that in mind.