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.