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Bucks County Repeals Guns in Parks Ordinance

A local Bucks County resident by the name of Ken Richmond decided to challenge Bucks County Commissioners that their ordinance banning firearms in county parks ran contrary to state law.¬†They agreed and repealed it. While these ordinances have been unlawful for at least twenty years, it good to get the blue laws off the books, regardless. I’m not surprised the Daily News managed to get a jab in by asking picnickers to avoid shooting the ants, as if anyone lawfully carrying a firearm is just a loose cannon waiting for the right excuse.

It’s the case that a lot of counties ban firearms in their parks, contrary to state laws which prohibit local governments and municipalities from regulating on this subject. I never recommended people obey these ordinances, because hey are illegal. In the event that anyone does somehow managed to get found out, and get a fine, it would be a relatively easy matter to challenge it and prevail. Preemption in this field is well established law in the Commonwealth, and the case law is pretty black and white.

3 Responses to “Bucks County Repeals Guns in Parks Ordinance”

  1. Andy B. says:

    I don’t want to discourage anyone from challenging illegal gun laws, but neither would I suggest to them it is necessarily “easy” to challenge them. For all of us who are not lawyers, going to court is not easy, and it always is expensive. So if you stumble into being charged with violation of an illegal law, please, please challenge it, but don’t go looking for trouble dismissing it as “easy.” In particular, don’t think you will walk into court and win by quoting the law accurately to the judge and watch him bow down to you in submission. You will need a well and properly presented case.

    To offer my bona fides for my opinion, I successfully challenged Middletown Township’s (Bucks County) illegal anti-hunting ordinance in 1964 — after I was arrested under it — and I successfully challenged the Bucks County Sheriff’s illegal “doctors note” requirement for obtaining a concealed carry permit in 1995. The 1964 case cost over $500 in 1964 dollars, and the 1995 case cost over $3000 in 1995 dollars, with an attorney who was giving me a break on his rates. In the 1964 case I cited to the judge in the first level of court (at the time I was arrested) the state Supreme Court case of the prior year declaring local gun and hunting ordinances unconstitutional, and his response was “Shut up, you’re guilty.” Don’t believe in your middle school civics book as to how law works.

    By the way, all of the municipalities in the lower end of the county continued to enforce illegal hunting ordinances long after my case, and some of them still have such ordinances on their books, so, not wanting to be a downer, but don’t think that when you challenge an illegal law, you will be saving the world. There is no disincentive for your opposition not obeying the law.

  2. richard says:

    Hi Andy B,
    If I read the article right, the challenge came as a petition of sorts to the governing body. This is WAY cheaper than going through the courts.

    Rather than violate the law and get arrested, show the law to the local legislative body (County Commissioners, Township Supervisors, Borough Council) then let the county or municipal solicitor advise them. Much cheaper and less stress.

    I do admire your courage for your willingness to get arrested to stop a dumb law.

  3. Andy B. says:

    Richard:

    In the name of honesty, I have to admit I didn’t “let”: myself get arrested so that I could challenge an illegal municipal ordinance. I just WAS arrested, and was so outraged by my treatment under those circumstances, with high-handed and arrogant attitudes of both the police and the district justice, that I pretty much had to do it.

    To expand on the circumstances, a few months before my arrest there had been the first of several state supreme court decisions declaring local hunting ordinances unconstitutional. As a naive country kid of 18, I thought that was case-closed my township’s hunting ordinance, so I stopped avoiding roads and dodging police cars while hunting — so got busted by a cop who aw waiting by my truck when I came out of the woods one morning after crow hunting.

    On the other hand, with my case against the county sheriff more than 30 years later, I applied to renew my carry permit but refused to meet the illegal requirement When my application was denied for that reason, I was given standing to file suit, and I did. I went into that one knowing exactly what I was doing.

    With regard to your suggestion, I agree it “never hurts to ask” but I am quite cynical about whether or not county officials care in the slightest about what the law is. There is no disincentive for them violating it. In the news story in question, I remain suspicious that there is a “rest of the story” why the county officials chose to pay attention to the complaint. It may be as simple as the majority party seeking to curry gun owners’ favor in a local election year, and though I’d like to believe that, something tells me other forces of some kind are at work.

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