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.

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