It seems a definitional change has taken place somewhere recently. Apparently scofflaw local governments are now the “little guys” and law-abiding citizens who just want their local governments to obey state laws are the “big bullies.” At least that’s the way Susan Winston sees things at HuffPo with her piece “David Vs. Goliath, or Do You Really Want Someone Totin’ a Gun in Your Park?” She’s talking about Pennsylvania’s over 40-year-old preemption law which, after being more and more blatantly ignored by cities and municipalities across the commonwealth was finally given teeth in this past legislative section . . .
Those teeth aren’t particularly sharp, mind you; no mayor or city council member is going to jail for ignoring state law. But what they are going to have to do is pay the “reasonable expenses” of plaintiffs when they lose.
Naturally Susan is appalled:
Unless you live there, you have probably never heard of Lower Merion Township in Pennsylvania. … Nice homes, friendly shopping, parks for families and especially children. … It’s a place where you feel safe. Or are you? Would you feel safe knowing that there are people walking around the parks your kids play in carrying a gun?
Safer or not safer with permit-holders around … Hmmm, let’s think about that. In Florida between 10/01/1987 and 02/28/2015 the state issued over 2.7 million concealed weapon licenses and revoked (without reinstatement) 8,690. This means that over those 27+ years an average of 317 permit holders lost their license each year. That is twelve thousandths of one percent.
Next let’s look at Texas; according to An Analysis of the Arrest Rate of Texas Concealed Carry Handgun License Holders as Compared to the Arrest Rate of the Entire Texas Population (as quoted by GunFacts, available here) permit-holders in Texas are 5.7 times less likely to be arrested (not convicted, just arrested) for violent offenses and 13.5 times less likely to be arrested for non-violent offenses than is the general public.
Yeah, not only do I feel safer, I actually am safer with “people walking around … carrying a gun.”
Next Susan throws in a little ad hominem snark:
Well the NRA thinks that is a good idea but then again, they harken back still to the days of gunslingers and cowboys and seem to not recognize the need for change.
It’s not that they hanker for the ‘good old days’ so much as the fact that the NRA pays attention to, you know, facts. Actual unadulterated, non-twisted-definition numbers. No calling 18- and 19-year-olds “kids” or “children”; no making up your own categories for “gun crime” so you can pad the number of permit-holders that fall into it; no counting permit-holder suicides as a “concealed carrier killing.” Just the facts, ma’am.
But this is not your usual call for the NRA to hang up their holsters. No, this is about the little guy, a commissioner of the township, who has the trigger finger to put the finger on these gun-totin’ lunatics.
Taking that last point first, “lunatics” i.e. those who have been adjudicated a danger to themselves or others, are already prohibited by Federal law from owning or even possessing firearms. Second, not to put too fine a point on it, but huh? What in the hell does “the trigger finger to put the finger on” someone even mean? Third, the commissioner of a township with a 2014 budget (all funds) of $173,195,959, protected by a police department with 155 full-time personnel is the little guy in this equation? Desperate much?
But let’s pass lightly over that incomprehensible gibberish to get to Susan’s real point:
A guy named Daniel Bernheim is standing up to the NRA and their threat of a lawsuit as he challenges a code, which would regulate gun activities in the parks.
I think what Susan meant is that Dan is standing up to the NRA as they challenge the city’s unlawful code regulating guns in parks. One tiny little problem, though; the NRA isn’t involved in the suit. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Firearm Owners Against Crime and two individuals; FOAC President Kim Stolfer and gun owner Joseph Abramson. And no, I am not playing semantic games; FOAC is not an NRA affiliate, they are a non-partisan, non-affiliated PAC.
But what sort of horrifically dangerous behavior does this vital local ordinance prevent?
The current code states, “No person, except members of the Police Department, shall carry or discharge firearms of any kind in a park without a special permit, unless exempted.” The NRA believes it is “exempted.”
Again it isn’t the NRA but we’ll just substitute reality for Susan’s bogeyman and point out that the plaintiffs do not believe that they are “exempted” they believe that the law violates 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120 and Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and according to the Prince Law Firm’s press release, Township Manager Ernie McNeely has admitted that it does, and the town’s solicitor advised them to repeal it.
The Firearms Consulting Group had an attorney send threatening letters warning of potential challenges to this ordinance stating it would make municipalities liable for all legal costs if a challenge is successful.” As a result, many potential lawsuits have been rescinded for fear of financial retaliation.
Susan seems to have a bit of trouble identifying the actual actors in this little drama; it is the Firearms Industry Consulting Group (a division of Prince Law Offices) which sent the letter. A letter which a reasonable person might view not as a threat but as a courtesy, informing the town council of that their local ordinances are in violation of § 6120 and giving them the opportunity to remedy the situation by repealing them.
As for FICG “mak[ing] municipalities liable for all legal costs if a challenge is successful” it is actually the Pennsylvania Legislature’s amendment of § 6120 which makes municipalities liable for those costs, a measure made necessary by the fact that there were and still are municipalities in the state that refuse to comply with § 6120 before those costs were attached to their non-compliance. Indeed, if I am decoding Susan’s prattle correctly her last sentence makes that very point.
Until they were threatened with having to pay a plaintiff’s court costs and reasonable expenses, municipalities were perfectly happy to ignore the fact that their local ordinances violated state law. I have heard that in some cases, townships would lose in court, repeal the law and then pass a virtually identical law in its place, serene in the knowledge that plaintiffs would eventually run out of money while the city’s pockets were much deeper.
Ultimately, though, Susan lets the cat out of the bag:
As Commissioner Bernheim said, “This is not about gun ownership, it is about the safety of our children.” Well Commissioner, I wish you had said it was about gun ownership also because I don’t want a bullet in my back because I hit a tennis ball out of the court and some NRA dude or dudette got angry and decided to exercise the 2nd amendment right.
And there we have it; Susan wants to keep guns out of parks because she is projecting her sociopathy onto others. Reasonable people do not want to commit murder because someone hits a tennis ball at them or takes “their” parking space, or plays a stereo too loud. And reasonable people don’t expect others to do so. People like Susan Winston, however, don’t appear to be very reasonable.
And finally Susan, the Second Amendment protects the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right to own and carry the weapon of your choice, not the right to murder someone because they irritate you. Just so we’re clear.
 As of 1/2011 they stopped breaking down revocations by type, so it is no longer possible to track how many were revoked for misuse of a firearm.
 William E. Sturdevant, PE, September 11, 1999
 Which were actually pretty awful in a lot of ways; call me effete but I like indoor plumbing.
 Oh, and nice compassion for people who are suffering from mental illness Susan. Tell me, do you trip blind people when you see them walking down the street too?
 Jeez, lady; take rhetoric lessons or get a proofreader, please!