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Chester County Press

Township seeking to place gun laws back on books

07/26/2016 01:12PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

For those Kennett Township residents who waited for the future to arrive on re-enacting gun laws in the township, the future is just about here.
By a vote of 3-0 at its July 20 meeting, the township’s Board of Supervisors voted to advertise its currently repealed gun discharge ordinance, in response to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s June decision that declared the amendment to the Commonwealth’s Uniform Firearms Act (Act 192) unconstitutional.
Formal re-adoption of the gun discharge ordinance will be included on the board’s Aug. 3 meeting agenda, when it will be expected to be officially approved.
By agreeing to take the dormant ordinance off the back burner after more than a year, the board added yet another chapter marker to a law that has been steeped in controversy. On Dec. 17, 2014, the board voted to repeal its current gun laws as well as pull their name from a lawsuit it had locked its name to a month before, against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other state leaders, including former Gov. Jim Corbett.
The reasons were simple: after spending the better part of a year ironing out its own gun laws, the township opposed the vote by the State's House and Senate that approved House Bill 80, signed into law on Jan. 6, 2015, which significantly amended the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6101) and cleared the way for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups to sue townships and municipalities that enacted firearms ordinances that were stricter than state firearm laws.
By agreeing to reinitiate its gun ordinance, the township is on the verge again of signing two key amendments of that ordinance into law. Ordinance No. 212, entitled, “Regulation of the Discharge of Firearms” and originally approved on Sept. 8, 2013, was intended “to secure the safety of persons and property within the Township and to maintain peace and order in the Township,” as stated in its purpose. Under its restrictions, township residents who wished to use firearms for target practice on their property had to limit the range of their shooting to beyond 150 yards of any occupied home or building, or more than 100 yards of a property line.
Ordinance No. 225, originally approved on Oct. 1, 2014, limited the use of firearms in the township to areas that offer appropriate safeguards, which the ordinance defined as backstops, baffles and horizontal bullet catchers.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes as good news to the township’s board, some of whom argued that the law allowed gun owners and the NRA to challenge existing gun laws, regardless of whether they themselves were directly affected by them. Further, they said, the law was passed without public notice or public debate.
“There had been iterations [of the ordinance] before the NRA stepped in to try to prevent the township from protecting its citizens,” said supervisor Dr. Richard Leff. “Now, we’re back to the same situation, where we want to make the ordinance as clear as possible, which includes using the NRA aspects of gun discharge.”
The board asked Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt to review the amendments to the ordinance, which he said clear up vague definitions related to backstops and bullet catchers.
In other township business, the township has hired a consultant to analyze its involvement in an economic development study it has entered into with Kennett Borough.
A public meeting to discuss the key points of the study has been tentatively scheduled for Sept. 8 at the American Legion in Kennett Square. Once the study is complete, the township will apply for a grant that would go toward the rehiring of the same consultant, who will be expected to prepare an ordinance which, if passed, will implement the study’s goals.
On the heels of the recent purchase of a $1.2 million, 45-foot-long fire engine for the Kennett Fire Department, Stevens said that the township is exploring methods of funding for its fire companies and emergency service units. Although recommendations are now being made, no details have been finalized yet.
Bid specifications for the refurbishing of the Marshall Bridge Road stream bank erosion are now being finalized, and are expected to be completed by the fall. The estimated cost of the project is $225,000.
The township is working with East Marlborough Township and a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on a study to explore the need for a traffic light in the intersection of Route 82 and Route 1, to alleviate directional and travel conflicts that several motorists are having in the vicinity.
The board adopted Ordinance No. 256, an inter-governmental agreement with New Garden Township, which will permit the township’s police department to use the firing range facility at the New Garden Flying Field, at a cost of $750 a year.
The board also adopted Ordinance No. 257, which allows the township to charge residents a 10 percent annual penalty on debt owed to the township, for invoices related to such items as sewer bills and streetlight maintenance.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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