Monday, January 12, 2009

Op-ed published

Shortly after I wrote my blog entry on the change in York county's park rules, I was contacted by an editor from the York Dispatch. He had stumbled across my blog while researching the issue and invited me to write an op-ed on this topic. It was published today. I'll add it to this post if the link I'm providing dies in a few days.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

York county - misinformed, but manages to get it right anyway

Apparently, the recent publicity surrounding Meleanie Hain (and perhaps the resulting lawsuit) was enough to get York county to re-visit their long-standing firearms prohibition in parks. From the York Dispatch:
The county commissioners Wednesday approved new rules that reverse that stance and allow people to carry guns, concealed or not, at any time in the parks as long as the owner and gun are licensed and registered pursuant to state law.

I'm sure many of you who are familiar with Pennsylvania's gun laws noticed a few things that are a bit off. I sent an e-mail to the reporter indicating that either the article was incorrect, or the county was still not in compliance with the law. In case you aren't clear on the problems, the policy (as stated above) has two holes.

1. OC on foot requires no license
2. Pa. statute clearly prohibits "registration" (see Title 18 §6111.4)

After I sent the e-mail, I did a little more digging, and actually found the new policy already up on York county's website:
75-29. Firearms, Projectiles and Weapons

No person shall bring into or upon the park and recreational facilities unless the firearm is properly registered and transported in accordance with Pennsylvania law. No person shall discharge or set off anywhere upon said properties, a revolver, pistol, shotgun, rifle, air gun, paint ball, firearm, bow (re-curve, compound, cross and straight) or other weapons (sling-shot) that discharges projectiles (missiles/rockets – air, water, fuel-powered), either by air, explosive substance or any other force; provided, however, that this section shall not apply to duly-appointed park ranger or law enforcement officer while carrying out the duties and responsibilities of his or her position, nor to any person while on or in those areas which may, from time to time, be designated as hunting areas by the Parks Director.

It shall be unlawful to possess any weapon or object, carried or used by any person in violating any rules or regulation including, but limited to, Destruction of Plant Life (section 75-10) or Possession of Illegal Animals (section 75-13), shall be subject to seizure and disposed of according to law unless approved such as carp fishing with bow & arrow, cross-bow hunting, hunting from a vehicle with handicap hunting permit or related activities and as listed activities on a park Hunting Permit. A York County Parks Hunting Permit is an agreement between Parks and an approved hunter to follow the rules and regulations (including to abide by the Pa Game Laws) of the parks and agree to indemnify and hold the County of York and the Advisory Board harmless from all injuries and damage which may result from, or in connection with the use of this permit on the parklands of the York County Parks.

This new language makes no mention of a license being necessary, though it does require that firearms be "transported in accordance with Pennsylvania law". Since such a requirement is parallel to state law, it is not a violation of preemption, though some might argue it's unnecessary, since state law (and transportation requirements) already apply in the park...but whatever.

While their requirement that firearms be "properly accordance with Pennsylvania law" clearly indicates their lack of understanding of the law, it doesn't violate preemption. My firearms are not registered. Pa. law explicitly prohibits "registration", thus, my arms are indeed "registered in accordance with the law".

The only real issue I have are some comments from Tom Brant, the Executive Director of the York County Department of Parks and Recreation:
Brant said county park rangers will try to discourage people from openly carrying guns, a practice that created some controversy earlier this year in Lebanon County. It was one of the reasons the county began to re-examine its ban on guns in parks.

Having an official and publicly announced policy of discouraging a legal practice seems to present a potential conflict with the state's official oppression statute. I sent a brief note to the parks' "Contact us" address, but hope to follow up directly with Mr. Brant. While the overall percentage of those who open carry is low, there are a handful in the York area. How big of an issue this policy of discouragement will be remains to be seen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Coming soon - New places to carry your firearm!

Despite an ongoing buzz for almost a year now, it occurred to me that some of my blog readers may still not be aware of some soon-to-happen changes, both in Pa. and nationwide.

As of December 17, it will be legal to carry a concealed weapon (if licensed) in Pa. State Parks. As we've seen before, the final language of the statute is a bit murky, so it's unclear if open carry is permissible, even for licensed individuals. This may end up being answered in court at some point, if two stubborn parties with opposing views cross paths. In the mean time, we've gained at least a small step in the right direction.

Further, there has been a debate for quite some time concerning the concealed carry of firearms on National Park lands. The decision has been made, and will take effect as soon as it is officially published in the federal register. No estimated date on that yet.

For National Park lands, individuals appropriately licensed, will be permitted to legally carry a concealed firearm while on National Park lands. This applies only outdoors. Federal buildings remain off limits per 18 U.S.C. 930, and would literally take an act of Congress to change. It's beyond the scope of the Department of Interior. Open carry (licensed or not) is still prohibited, but the rule only requires that an individual "must have actual authority to possess those loaded and concealed firearm under state law", so persons exempt from licensing under Pa. law can still legally take advantage of that exemption on National Park lands.

Unfortunately, our own state legislature did not grasp this concept, extending the new permission in State Parks only to "Licensees" or law enforcement officers.

Saturday, December 6, 2008 gets a facelift

We are pleased to announce the roll-out of a new design for Pa Open Carry as well as to publicly introduce our new forum. The forums at are not intended to be a substitute for any other existing forum.

We recognize the wide appeal of as a national resource for the open carry movement as well as the comprehensive collection of information made available by the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association, on just about any topic even slightly connected to firearms. We hope that we can fill a smaller niche that both of these other forums address on a broader scale.

Our goal with this new forum is to more directly focus on encouraging 'activism' as issues related to OC in Pennsylvania become known. We certainly do not intend to exclude other issues that need addressed simply because OC was not involved, but recognize that many such issues are avoided simply because the presence of a firearm is never discovered.

Please stop by PA Open Carry and take a look around. While you're there, be sure to sign up on our forum and tell us what you think of the new design.

Rich Banks & Greg Rotz

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brady Campaign rides to Sheriff DeLeo's defense

I've just received word that the Brady Campaign has offered two attorneys to assist the defendants in Meleanie Hain's civil rights suit. Interesting that such big guns are getting called out for a case that's being widely characterized as frivolous and unjustified.

More details as they emerge.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An invitation to Matthew Major

Mr. Major,

I invite you to take a small block of your time and meet with myself and a few friends in person. You'll find that those of us who carry firearms are not knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. I challenge you to think outside the box. I'm NOT interested in debating you on the Second Amendment, but I think you'd be surprised to experience for yourself that normal, rational people (who aren't the police) carry firearms, and that the general public doesn't give us a second glance.

Greg Rotz
aka 'Armed-Citizen'

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Matthew Major doesn't get it.....again.

My local editorial writer misses the mark again. I understand he writes "on behalf of Public Opinion's editorial board", but I must assume that he's not continually writing pieces 180° of his own opinions.

On one hand, he doesn't understand why I "need" to carry my firearm when I go vote - because it might upset someone, but on the other, he's annoyed that voters can't wear a political t-shirt to the same poll. After all, that's their right.

This time, he's placing full responsibility for one person's actions (Sheriff Michael DeLeo) at the feet of someone who's actually decided to push back against DeLeo's overstepping of his authority (Meleanie Hain). His editorial is a great example of how a typical news story - lacking all of the facts, and often with some simply reported incorrectly, can snowball into a piece that is so far off of the mark that it's laughable when you know the whole story.

Another dispatch from the "Wait, Did I Read That Right?" file: A Lebanon County woman is suing the county sheriff who revoked her concealed weapons permit after she caused a ruckus by openly carrying her sidearm to a children's soccer game.

Yes, Meleanie Hain has made the news again by combining her publicity-conscious soccer game stunt on Sept. 11 with naked grab at a cool $1 million in public money in a lawsuit filed Monday.

You see, Hain says the publicity generated by the revocation of her permit -- subsequently and successfully challenged in court -- has caused emotional distress and turned her baby-sitting business from a full-time operation to a one-day-a-week job.

Let's be clear: No one is claiming Hain broke the letter of the law on Sept. 11, a fact reinforced by the Oct. 14 reinstatement of her permit.

In a nutshell, Hain openly wore a firearm to a soccer game for small children. Other parents in attendance -- rightly or wrongly, for whatever reason -- complained to the county sheriff

Mrs. Hain did not "cause a ruckus". She did carry her firearm to the soccer field on September 11th, just as she had done on at least a dozen previous occasions, not to mention the hundreds of other times and places she has done so. The "ruckus" was caused by Charlie Jones and Nigel Foundling, a public defender and former district justice, respectively.

Right To Know documents clearly show their attempt to use their position to force Hain to comply with their demands. The flurry of correspondence amongst various Lebanon county officials shows they were scrambling for any leverage they could come up with to 'persuade' her to submit to their wishes, but they were unable to come up with anything that had even a remotely legal foundation. Then, all of a sudden, a 'concerned parent' writes a letter to the Sheriff. A letter than he has since admitted (directly to Mrs. Hain) that he wished he'd never written.
The sheriff responded to those complaints. A judge correctly slapped down the sheriff's response and returned the permit, but not before characterizing the entire mess as a lapse in judgment on Hain's part.

And at that point, this story should have ended.

Instead, Hain compounds the issue by suing a public servant. "She has been stigmatized unfairly," as her lawyer put it to The Patriot-News last week.

Stigmatized? Yes, indeed. Unfairly? We're not so sure.

Check the transcript and the law Matt. The Sheriff is required to conduct an investigation. By his own court testimony, this consisted solely of reading the single complaint letter that he received (the one the author wished he never sent), and visiting the park to look around. Those in authority do not have unfettered power to take action beyond the scope of the law. When a citizen does this, they are punished. The return of Mrs. Hain's license was simply the undoing of the Sheriff's improper action. The impending suit, and it's outcome are his punishment.
And, to our way of thinking, that's not really the issue. Because if Hain wins this case, Lebanon County will be on the hook for a million-dollar payoff.

We fail to see why taxpayers should be punished for Hain's failure to anticipate that touching off a gun-related controversy might cause her baby-sitting clients to rethink their day care arrangements.

Frankly, we can't blame people who don't want to the leave their kids with a grown woman who hasn't yet learned that we all must accept the consequences of our actions.

The DeLeo revocation fiasco is not the first time Lebanon county row offices have been plagued with corruption and/or scandal. As a matter of fact, it's not even the first time a dark shadow has fallen across the Sheriff's office. If the county electorate is willing to be governed in this fashion, then they should have no complaint about the associated cost when a dose of reality comes their way. If they don't agree with the heavy-handed tactics employed by their leaders, they should take action at the ballot box to lessen the likelihood of similar events occurring in the future.

As far as the loss of clients, this was a direct result of the Sheriff's action, and the ensuing climate in the Sheriff's office. The first client lost was a Deputy. He was very clear that he had no issue with Mrs. Hains behavior - either during the care of his child, or at the soccer field. The issue for him was criticism and pressure at work, applied by the Sheriff and other staff there. His testimony in the civil case should prove very interesting. The second client lost was a direct result of the first, as the second child no longer had a playmate of similar age. Neither client expressed any concern with the level of care provided by Mrs. Hain, who by the way, doesn't carry her firearm while providing child care services in her home.

Basing editorials solely on other news accounts can easily allow you the opportunity to make yourself look the fool when the accurate and complete facts are known. I'd think Mr. Major would approach this job more carefully, as looking the fool is already something he's quite accomplished at.