Courts Rule in Favor of Firearm Owners Against Crime

Courtroom gavel and base

Growing up in the Keystone state (even if the region is misspelled in my bio), I can attest to importance of firearms to whitetail hunters. However, the Second Amendment is not about hunting, it is about our constitutional right to bear arms. It would seem that some in Pennsylvania needed a reminder, so the local courts stepped to defend the citizens’ rights with Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act (UFA).

Here is the full story from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA):

Gun Bans: Court Reminds Local Governments They Lack Authority to Restrict Guns

Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act (UFA), section 6120(a), directs that “[n]o county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms …” 18 Pa. C.S. § 6120(a).

The UFA rests on the legal concept of “preemption,” in which a higher level of government—the state—expressly restricts the power or law-making authority it grants to its political subdivisions. This law, like similar laws in 45 states, was enacted to eliminate the inconsistent and confusing regulatory hodge-podge that results when each locality adopts its own “customized” regulations on guns, and serves to ensure that the firearm laws remain uniform across a state. Previous court cases interpreting Pennsylvania’s law—including a lawsuit brought by the NRA against the City of Philadelphia—have invalidated local gun-control measures including prohibitions on the possession, transfer and sale of “assault weapons.” Courtroom gavel and base Despite this and the clear language of the UFA, in 2011, Lower Merion Township in Pennsylvania adopted an ordinance, Code § 109-16. The ordinance, allegedly based on the need to enhance the safety of Township residents and the public’s use and enjoyment of local parks, prohibited persons from “carry[ing] or discharge[ing] firearms of any kind in a park without a special permit, unless exempted,” and punished violators with a penalty of up to $600 for each violation. The only exemption applied to “authorized members of the Police Department.” A group, Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), initially approached the Township to repeal the ordinance, based on state preemption. The Township declined, relying on its rights as a property owner and claiming the ordinance was consistent with the UFA preemption language because it only prohibited the unlawful possession of firearms in parks, allowing for possession with a “special permit.” In the ensuing litigation challenging the validity of the ordinance, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, in a 2-1 decision, reversed a 2015 trial court decision and enjoined enforcement of the ordinance. Firearm Owners Against Crime v. Lower Merion Township, No. 1693 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. 16, 2016).

The court rejected the claim that the ordinance was within the authority of a municipality regulating the use of its own property. The underlying basis for the ordinance was the Township’s police power, not proprietary rights, because the ordinance imposed a criminal penalty and authorized officers to enforce the ordinance by removing and prosecuting violators. More generally, the UFA explicitly prohibited a township from regulating firearms “in any manner,” without an exemption that would authorize the township to make rules for its park property.

The court also gave short shrift to the claim that the UFA did not preempt a municipality’s regulation of unlawful firearm possession. Earlier court precedent on the preemption law “prohibits this Court from endorsing the argument that a cognizable distinction exists between regulating lawful activity and unlawful activity.” Even assuming otherwise, the ordinance did not come within the supposed exception. It regulated possession that was not already unlawful under state law—there was “no corresponding provision in the Crimes Code that contained such a blanket ban of firearm possession in a park”—and the Township could not create its own class of unlawful conduct with which to justify the ordinance.

The ordinance was not consistent with the UFA, and “because there are no apparently reasonable grounds for the trial court’s decision,” the Commonwealth Court reversed the lower court ruling. The upshot is that in Pennsylvania, the General Assembly, not municipal councils, is the proper forum for the imposition of firearm regulations.

Do you live in Pennsylvania or know of your state’s laws restricting the power or law-making authority it grants to its political subdivisions? Share your answers in the comment section.

The NRA-ILA fights every day for your Second Amendment rights in Congress, state legislatures, and courtrooms across America. We never rest in our mission to guard your freedom. But our strength comes from YOU. Please help the NRA-ILA defend your gun rights today. Every dollar helps. Thank you. [dave]

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Comments (38)

  1. Pat on the back is in order. Excellent work my fellow patriots. Every now and then tyranny raises it’s ugly head and it needs stomping. Bravo!! We must be eternally vigilant to the freedom grabbers of our republic. They never take a day off and neither will we.

  2. Hunting and home protection are good reasons to have a weapon like a pistol, rifle or shotgun, but limiting the 2nd to just those weapons is just what the anti-gun tribe wants you to see in the second amendment. The real reason that the 2nd exists is to give citizens the opportunity to defend themselves from an overreaching government. I love hunting, but that isn’t why I get aroused by an AR-15! If we lose control of our government, that’s why I will abide by the second, and so far, I still see it as out of control. Let’s not forget that Hitler was a law and order sort of leader, but one of the first things he did was to limit which types of firearms a non-military or law enforcement person could have. I have great dreams about what Trump can get done, but I hold all persons holding power over we little people in at least a little contempt…even Trump. Citizens who are not criminals or crazy should be allowed to have ANY type of weapon short of a nuke, but that’s only IMHO. We are being strung along as chumps by both sides of this issue. I’m a literalist…if I can afford to buy an M1-A2 tank, arm it with whatever firepower I can get my hands on and park it on my property, then that too is covered literally by the second…get it?

  3. State rights, federal rights, local community rights, blah blah blah….what about law abiding citizen’s rights? “Shall not be infringed” is a pretty clear statement. I’m wondering if the anti-gun fanatics could be sued for harassment by law abiding gun owners. That may be one way to slow the tide of anti-gun stupidity.

  4. Well why doesn’t anyone help us in California!!
    In the next 10 years we will only be allowed to own muskets.

  5. Hey, Dave. I agree 100% with your article and Pennsylvania’s higher court. Please note that the NRA stands for the National Rifle Association, no the National Firearms Association as you wrote in paragraph 2. 🙂

  6. Should Kommiefornia ever succeed on leaving the Union, the Union should pull any and all funding, services, and military locations. The former state shall become an entity to it’s own self.
    Folks, just sit back and watch the awl destruction. At a certain point the Union will take them back but not without severe restrictions and a major cleansing.
    That my friends is how I see we get Californian to be a rehabilitated member of the USA.

  7. California continues its onslaught of specifying certain firearms illegal, despite being purchased illegally in the past. The new laws specifically exempt lawmakers and police form these regulations. I cant believe this is constitutional.

  8. I keep saying over and over, if a police officer can have a weapon to defend himself from a criminal so should i. Court after court has said , it is not the job of the police to defend us. So why do the police have guns? Be it a 18 round semi-auto pistol or a AR-15? They have them for their own defense from the criminals they are to arrest after they commit a crime. My life is just as important and even more so to me. They are no more trained in many cases either. I am a 28 + year Army vet and was a weapons instructor as well. I even taught classes on the right to use deadly force. And many of the classes on Concealed Carry have the same. The courts say it is my jobs to defend myself and I will do just that…..and my family too!!

  9. I don’t want to see California succeed from the union! I want to get the BASTARDS OUT and prosecute them!! It’s much to valuable to let commies take it over! If they succeed, then another state will try it! We need to get them out and put the traitors against the wall and show them what the 2nd amendment really means!

  10. NRA.ILA and CRPA are both working in California. They have accomplished some important wins for us but as most know, as soon as one new law is stopped two new ones pop up. Governor Moonbeam and his lapdog continue to take our rights.
    California is truly a nanny state and those that support the administration
    will someday be gone. Then all the whiners and Hollywood fools will have more to cry about. Maybe they will move out of the state

    1. >Then all the whiners and Hollywood fools will have more to cry about. Maybe they will move out of the state

      @Randy, Unfortunately they ARE moving out of the state and Kalifornicating elsewhere! Nevada is now a blue state. Arizona may tip soon. The Kalifornication of Oregon happened a long time ago (I lived there for much of my life and watched it happen) and significant damage is being done in Montana and even Idaho. No–I wish they’d stay in Kalifornia. Of course I’d have no qualms about them moving to other forsaken and foreign (where liberty is foreign) lands like New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, but I don’t think that’s happening very much.

  11. Title 18 of Pennsylvania law has provided for “preemption” for a long time. There are a number of Pennsylvania local governments that violate the commonwealth’s preemption law. This problem would not exist if we had an attorney general with the balls to go after these violators.

  12. Our liberal progressives in Missoula, Mt did the same thing. Passing a back round check ordinance for private sales and loaning firearms that is only valid inside city limits. This is a complaint driven law with no real way to enforce it and has been appealed to the state AG and awaiting a ruling.

  13. I’m glad to hear this, but, this is nothing compared to the injustices being served up in California. Why has the NRA stood by and done nothing while further gun restriction laws were passed this year that are clearly 100% unconstitutional? I really would have expected the NRA to bring a lawsuit against the State by now, not not one single peep. Thousands of legitimate gun owners are going to be heavily affected come January 1st 2016.

    We need to stay strong in every state, not just some of them. CA and NY probably need “preemptive laws” more than any other State.

    1. You ask, “Why has the NRA stood by and done nothing while further gun restriction laws were passed this year that are clearly 100% unconstitutional?”

      I’ll tell you why. It’s because the NRA has become an institution, interested more in its own continuation and self-serving agenda than in preserving the rights of gun owners. They talk a good game and do a good PR job of wrapping themselves in the flag and the 2nd Amendment, but the proof is in the pudding.

      Your post nails it. The recent rash of coercive controls enacted by the State of California against the constitutional rights of its own citizens has elicited a deafening silence from the NRA. That is all the proof I need that the NRA doesn’t give a rip about the war currently being waged against California gun owners’ right to bear arms.

      The NRA has abandoned California, and given the leftists in Sacramento a free hand to impose Soviet-style limitations on freedoms that are supposed to be guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. They should be ashamed of themselves.

      It is still within the NRA’s power to protect everyone else’s rights by litigating and winning back the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Californians. They have the money and the legal muscle to take on the State’s oppressive infringement of those rights.

      The fact that have not done so should raise a red flag for every NRA member, nationwide. Anyone who lives in a state that isn’t as coercive as California and is under the delusion that the NRA will protect your constitutional rights…well, just ask California gun owners where that belief has gotten them.

  14. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court at least get firm, nationwide, standards in place to stop CA, NY, etc from destroying the key amendment to our constitution. Personally, I think the 2nd Amendment should have been the first. Essentially the 2A guarantee’s all the others by enshrining our natural right to self defense.

  15. The 2nd Amendment is clear OWN & BEAR

    anything less is a violation of that CONSTIUTIONAL RIGHT

    and every person should file in court when violated

    You know the government will back off when it cost them TOO much


  16. Somebody needs to tell this to LA County in Kommiefornia. Their new laws and many old ones have been started in LA and San Fran. and now effect the entire state. I heard that in PA some community laws were at odds with other communities so going from one end of the state to the other was like navigating a minefield. I wonder why communities in IL and the city of Chicago can enforce bans that don’t apply to the rest of the state? Doesn’t every state have some form of pre-emption law?

    1. Doug,
      Interesting comment and you beat me to asking the question.
      That said, I learned today that Commiefornication is actually intending, and has plans afoot, to secede from the United States of America and become a nation unto itself.
      While ludicrous at first blush, the idea does have “some” merit, but not without concern.
      Mainly, I don’t think the US government should EVER relinquish ownership of ANY military installation, facility OR shipping.PORT, civilian or military!
      PERIOD! If Commiefornication can live with that then, hmm, maybe. Why not get rid of the blight of the Leftist Coast?
      Naturally, I’d encourage every single QUALITY business worth it’s weight in Silicon to vacate and Go East, Young Man, as well as recreating the fertile grounds which grow so much of this nations food to nearby states WELL IN ADVANCE of pulling the plug.
      Colorado River water sharing? Done. OVER.
      Heck….get some desalination plants going from Oregon and othere western coastal states up and running RFN, if not sooner.

      President Elect Trump’s “Wall?”
      West side of Yuma, AZ cutting off the Colorado River would be nice. Why, plug the south end of the river whIle we are at it and create a splendid recreational holiday retreat in southern AZ! By golly, I’d use it!

      Oh, and that pesky 9th Circuit Court who’s residents sitting on the bench and reading like a Who’s Who of Leftist Nuts and Fruits and Dingbats EXTRAORDINAIRE?!?
      Let them preside over Commiefornication exclusively and in it’s entirely with NO relevancy on the rest of the nation.
      Shucks, just pitch them over the wall while we are at it.
      Back to the wall, design, construct and man it using the methodology employed in the movie “Escape From New York.”
      President Elect Trump has a bit of knowledge in the construction industry and I’m confident he’d be able to find the correct construction magnates well capable of doing the job in short order.
      And when it comes to refilling the 9th Circut Court V.2, mandate there are NO Leftist or anti-American types allowed to apply, much less be considered. Nor should they have even the SLIGHTEST Inkling of thinking the US Constitution is a “Living Document.”
      The future is uncertain at this point in time WRT Mr. Trump ACTUALLY returning the good old USA back to a leader on the world stage and getting us back more “centered” with our laws and especially getting big government OUT of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Joe America and scaling back the BS government agencies who’s whole being revolves around CONTROL instead of the Pursuit of Happiness by each of us as WE see fit and as long as we don’t go about hurting others.
      And let’s not forget to get and handle on this whole immigration BS, too.
      I’m all for LEGAL immigration but NOT what Lame F#% Obamalamadingdong has instituted.
      Oh, and PS, prosecute Hitlery and ALL her ilk and overturn virtually ALL of the EO’s that Oblamer implemented AGAINST THE LAW.
      Ok. I feel better now.

    2. As a person who was born and raised in California I find it interesting that most of the objectionable laws eco bs have been put in place by people who were born elsewhere
      .If this is such a bad place I wouldn’t be sad to see those that complain
      on a daily basis just leave and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way.
      As far as 2a rights go, most of us believe as CRPA, The NRA and other groups.Self protection and sport have always benn part of my since I was a Cub Scout and learned to shoot
      I and my friends are veterans and have great love for this country.
      We have no respect or love for Governor Moonbeam and his cronies.
      Thankfully we will be in the hands a President who loves this country as we do. Most of us vowed to protect and defend, if you didn’t WHY NOT?

    3. Well said Howard. I’m not quite sure we can legally mandate against Leftists being considered for the 9th Circus Court, but I suppose in your brave new world, anything is possible or even plausible.

  17. It is for this very reason that I could not countenance the idea of Hillary Clinton gaining the Oval Office. Notwithstanding all of Clinton’s many quirks and factors that disqualify her from being president, the one…..the MAJOR…..reason that we had to keep her out of the White House is so that she could not further destroy the integrity of the Judiciary by packing the Supreme Court and lower Federal Courts with left-wing judges who would betray the Second Amendment with nary a blink of the eye.

  18. >…” it is about our constitutional right to bear arms for any reason or no reason at all.”

    Well actually, the Second Amendment tells us right in its preamble that the founders’ motivation for penning it was not to protect arms for “no reason at all.” The Second Amendment was motivated by the fact that a well regulated militia is a necessary condition to enable the security of a “free state” (freedom itself, inasmuch as freedom can be embodied by a government). The problem today is people do not understand the meaning of a “well regulated militia.” A “well regulated militia,” as the founders knew it, is a ubiquitously armed society. It is not the founders’ version of our National Guard today, nor is it necessary only to defend freedom from foreign invaders. Rather, it is necessary to defend against all tyrannical elements, foreign or domestic, which perpetually and historically endeavor to deny people liberty!

    1. @ Calin Brabandt,

      I was a bit taken aback myself after having read, “…our constitutional right to bear arms [is] for any reason or no reason at all.” I was about to post my own brand of enlightenment until I read your well written comment which quite eloquently elucidates the historical facts to correct the matter.

    2. @G-Man
      I was heading down the same path but, like you, I held back until I finished reading Calin’s excellently articulated “enlightenment”.

      @Calin Brabandt
      Well said, Calin!

    3. Well spoken Calin Brabandt, your statement should be on front page of every newspaper in US. We The People rule, we have gave politicians and special interests free reign for too long. The 2nd is to remind DC who is really in charge and the sooner us 99% take the US back the better.

    4. Thank you everyone for your kind comments and like-minded thoughts. Also, thank you Dave Dolbee, for editing your blog. I do admit that a nice consequence of the Second Amendment is it also protects an individual’s keeping and bearing of arms for hunting or even no reason at all, if an individual is so inclined, because any action to disarm a person, regardless of that person’s reasons for keeping and bearing arms, would nonetheless result in an infringement on that person’s right. Preamble section notwithstanding (which serves to reveal the founders’ motivation and was a typical style of law in their day), “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” has no strings attached!

  19. “Here is the full story from the National Firearms Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA):”

    Actually a better name….

  20. I only wish the Colorado Supreme Court had been as intelligent in applying the State’s preemption law, when the city of Denver banned “assault rifles” within city limits. In that case, the Colorado court ruled that Denver could contravene the State law in the interest of public safety. Now, whenever I drive to the Western Slope to hunt with my AR platform firearms, I have to drive around Denver to avoid being in violation of the local ordinances.

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