Strategy Going Forward on Lost and Stolen

I think I took away a few lessons from last night’s contact with the enemy. Radnor was the first local township that has considered “Lost and Stolen” that we knew about ahead of time and had an opportunity to attend. Going in, I was thinking the following things would be the important points to stress.

  • Preemption: That these ordinances are a violation of state law, and will end up costing the township money in costly lawsuits.
  • Effectiveness: That these ordinances are unenforceable and there have been no prosecutions.
  • Trickery: That CeaseFirePA are playing the township for fools, in part of a wider strategy of destroying preemption in Pennsylvania, and forcing the hand of the General Assembly.

I thought all the residents who got up to speak did an excellent job of making these points. I think we actually only had two non-residents address the Board, because the residents did a pretty thorough job of it. But in the end, I think my thinking, and everyone else’s on this matter, was probably giving the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners entirely too much credit; I think they had made up their mind, and I expect the opinion of the Township Solicitor to essentially back up the pre-ordained decision of the Board. In essence, preemption doesn’t matter to them. They could care less about it. They could also care less about their oaths to uphold the Constitution, because I’m sure in their minds they aren’t doing anything unconstitutional.

If there was any single concern that I would say was reflected the Board of Commissioners across the board it was that the Township was going to be sued, that enforcement of the ordinance was going to place burdens on the already cash strapped Township. Given that, I think I would change the emphasis in future fights to the following:

  • Preemption: There were still a few board members concerned this ordinance was illegal, and that can help give cover for politicians to vote no. But it should be closely tied with the next point.
  • Cost: The Township will be on the hook for paying for prosecutions under this ordinance, whereas the county and state picks up prosecution of state crimes. Enforcement of the will certainly bring a lawsuit. NRA has sued several municipalities for merely passing this.
  • Distraction from Local Issues: One thing that should have been apparent to anyone there is this just isn’t an issue that local towns and communities really ought to be concerned with. Townships typically deal with zoning, remove snow, fix potholes, take care of parks, and other such local functions. Why does the Board want to waste their time with this sideshow? To help a radical activist group make a point to Harrisburg? Let them write their state reps! Let them lobby at the Capitol!

Commissioners seemed skeptical when CeaseFirePA mentioned that the Brady Campaign would pick up the tab for any lawsuits against the ordinance, and indicated they’d want it in writing. It’s my opinion the Bradys will be very reluctant to put anything into writing, so I think that’s a strategy to use going forward. Get your local politicians to demand that. If the Bradys don’t deliver, that’s another point, and it may start the politicians wondering whether the promise is worth anything. If they do put it in writing, our side always has the option of forcing Brady to spend large amounts of money they may or may not have by filing repeated lawsuits.

In short, I think the best strategy to try to defeat these ordinances is to have one or two people go up and talk about preemption, and have five or six residents residents, who don’t apparently look like NRA folks, go up and demand to know why their Township Board or Borough Council are wasting taxpayer time and money with something that’s the Pennsylvania General Assembly is supposed to take care of. That I think they care about. I don’t think they care about Supreme Court rulings, Tom Corbett’s opinion, or whether the ordinance is effective or enforceable. I think we were before a Board that had already made up its mind on those issues. But money is something every local politician worries about. I think we may be better off playing on that.

19 thoughts on “Strategy Going Forward on Lost and Stolen”

  1. If they could get their heads above water long enough to propose these in Illinois, I have no doubt Daley would make the offer in writing to pay for any town’s fees . . . he’s doing it for Oak Park, the only town that kept its handgun ban on the books after Heller, simply so his lawyers won’t have to defend Chicago as the only city in the state with a handgun ban.

    Although, with the way things are going for him right now, he might wait until after the elections.

  2. Jacob Said,
    “Is anyone trying to oust these lower level politicians?”

    Good question. IMHO this should also be another tactic we should use. If L&S is being considered anywhere that the council members are up for election within the next year or so, it should be made abundantly clear that a grassroots effort to remove them from office will become a primary undertaking for our side.

    Money is indeed always an issue, but I think the one thing elected officials worry about more than money is staying in power; we should find a way to leverage that.

  3. Jacob:

    Unfortunately, NRA doesn’t get involved in these local races, so members don’t have a whole lot of guidance. This is going to depend on self-organization and state level groups.

    Sadly, at the state level, PA is very fragmented. We don’t have any of the state level groups really taking this bull by the horn and meeting CeaseFirePA town for town. It’s very difficult.

  4. One thing we probably should be doing with PAFOA is keeping a list of all the local politicians who vote for this crap. The problem is it would take resources to get someone in each town to get the votes. The other problem is that tax statuses limit how much electioneering you can do. FOAC is the only PAC in the state.

  5. Most municipalities should have web sites by now. You can obtain copies of the bills and vote sheets from either the city/town clerk or the clerk of the legislature.

    Is there anyone in the state capable of taking ownership of political issues?

  6. Most do, Jacob, whether they put useful information on them is another matter. We had a hard time, doing our MAIG research, even finding out who the mayor was in a lot of these towns.

  7. The only thing you need off their websites is the contact info for the clerk then call or e-mail them and ask for the bill & vote sheet. Gather all that and stick it on PAFOA or someplace.

  8. And who’s going to regularly call all 2500 or so municipalities in Pennsylvania to find out what they are all up to?

  9. You don’t have to call them all, just wherever Ceasefire passed their proposal, or just the larger municipalities which passed it. You don’t even need the vote sheet, just the name of the prime sponsor. It’s then easier for PAFOA or FOAC or whomever to survey their opponents and pick the best ones to support next time around.

  10. I misunderstood you. I thought you were referring to knowing which townships and boroughs were going to be considering an ordinance.

    Yes, that should be doable, and something I might talk to Dan about.

  11. Big hangup there is tax status, though PAFOA is a 501c(4), which I think can do some lobbying, but I don’t think they can do electioneering.

  12. Even if we could from a tax point of view, PAFOA doesn’t have the money to hire staff, so it would depend on volunteers, and PAFOA’s volunteers are already spread pretty thin.

  13. Who said anything about paid staff? I do about 95% of the candidate ratings & endorsements work by myself and I don’t get paid. I don’t have any background in political science either. I’m also better at electing and more importantly un-electing people in the state than NRA and their paid professionals and everybody knows it.

    The most important thing is someone has to take ownership of the issue and make decisions. That can be as simple as identifying the prime sponsors of Ceasefire’s proposals, finding out who their opponents are in the next election are and putting a voter guide together on PAFOA. You can do that.

  14. So you do this being attacked across more than two dozen municipalities across the state? Going to put voter guides together for the 150+ MAIG mayors in the state? Follow that many races spread across PA? That’s a lot of work for people who also have jobs which put heavy demands on their time.

    It’s great that you can do that in New York, and I will be the first to admit we could be doing better. But we don’t have enough people with enough time to work the issue that broadly right now.

  15. On even years I do the ratings and endorsements for about 400+ candidates from 220-240 races. It’s not like I do all this in one weekend. I start mailing questionnaires out in May, by the end of August the primary ratings and endorsements are done and by the end of September the general election ratings and endorsements are done. When it is spread out like this it is very manageable. The only special equipment I bought was a $100 Seiko label printer.

    The single most important thing that needs to be done is that someone has to take ownership of the issue and make decisions. Doing that scares people. That is the biggest obstacle.

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