By Sara Tipton
Breaking a Lower Merion Township rule Sunday afternoon, several peaceful gun rights activists carried firearms openly in protest of a local firearms prohibition. The township prohibits any person from carrying and firing a gun in public parks, except exempted parties or law enforcement officials. “Although the rule does not ban legal guns from parks, rally organizers say the ordinance is illegal under Pennsylvania law, which gives the state jurisdiction over firearms regulations.” Protesters say it violates Pennsylvania law which gives the right to restrict firearms usage to the state, not localities (auto-play video after the jump) . . .
Approximately 80 activists waved American flags, openly carried firearms, and listened to speeches on the cold Pennsylvania afternoon in Bala Cynwyd Park. The rally opened with the Pledge of Allegiance which was followed by a moment of silence to remember Officer Robert Wilson III, a Philadelphia cop killed in the line of duty March 5.
“We’re all here because we believe that real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it’s wrong,” said speaker Steve Piotrowski of Citizens for Liberty.
One lawyer, Joshua Prince, told the crowd that Lower Merion would be sued, referring to Act 192, the law that states that anyone may sue a township over local firearms ordinances without having to show proof of an ordinance causing hardships or harm.
Two Lower Merion township commissioners who attended the rally and weren’t happy. They maintained that they are not concerned about any potential lawsuits, and that the protest doesn’t reflect the views of a majority of Lower Merion residents.
“For all intents and purposes, this is an armed occupation here today,” said Township Commissioner Brian McGuire, who supports the ordinance and who attended the rally to talk to constituents.
A number of Pennsylvania municipalities have repealed gun control laws after Act 192 passed last year strengthening state’s preemption law. The NRA sued the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster in January for leaving their gun laws on the books.
Citing nearby crime, supporters said creating gun-free zones in places like public parks keeps people from being able to protect their children.
“If I was sitting on a bench in the park and somebody tried to grab my grandchildren . . . if I did not have a gun [the children] would be gone,” said Jane Taylor Toal of Citizens for Liberty.
But Commissioner Dan Burnheim wasn’t impressed.
“This is not an issue regarding the Second Amendment,” said Commissioner Dan Burnheim. “This is much more myopic. It is [about] having guns where our children are playing.”
The rally was peaceful and family-friendly. Organizers expected a larger turnout, however. Although the rally went unchallenged for the most part, reports surfaced of nails being found on the street near cars.