Whitehall Council Revises Local Firearms Law

The borough's former ordinance was not in accordance with state law.

Whitehall Borough's local law regulating firearms has been changed, as the Whitehall Council unanimously altered its ordinance on Wednesday night, no longer deeming it to be illegal to carry guns in the borough.

The borough's former ordinance was preempted by a Pennsylvania-wide law that states, "No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth."

Up until Wednesday, Whitehall's local ordinance regulating firearms stated, "It shall be illegal for any person in the borough to have in his possession, except within his own domicile, or carry or use, a revolver or pistol of any description, shotgun or rifle which may be used for the explosion of cartridges."

Whitehall's conflict with the state law was pointed out by Mike Kozak, a 37-year resident of the borough and a gun owner. Kozak was instrumental in pushing to have the local law changed.

"That (Whitehall code) was written, I believe, in 1955," said Kozak, who also pointed out that Whitehall may have been at risk of penalties had it not changed its law.

If passed, House Bill 805—sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County)—would penalize municipalities for trying to enforce local firearms restrictions.

"Despite clear constitutional and statutory limitations, some of our local officials have gone out of their way to enact piecemeal local restrictions regarding the ownership and possession of firearms," Metcalfe wrote in a House memorandum. "The end result is that citizens are forced to incur significant expenses to hire attorneys to challenge these illegal and unconstitutional ordinances.

"In the near future, I plan to re-introduce legislation to clarify that any party who successfully challenges one of these illegal local firearm ordinances will be entitled to reimbursement from the offending jurisdiction for:

  • actual damages,
  • reasonable attorney fees, and
  • costs."

Whitehall Borough, with its action on Wednesday, is safe.

That makes Kozak doubly happy. Not only did he hope that Whitehall wouldn't be exposed to any possible damages, but he is also a member of Firearms Owners Against Crime, which holds monthly meetings at the Whitehall Municipal Complex and supports Pennsylvanians' constitutional right "to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State."

"We're the biggest firearms political action committee in the state," Kozak said.

Despite Wednesday's action, it is still illegal in Whitehall to carry "any air gun, BB gun, gas-operated gun or spring gun, or any instrument, toy or weapon commonly known as a 'peashooter,' 'slingshot' or 'beany,' made for the purpose of throwing or projecting missiles of any kind by any means whatsoever, whether such instrument is called by any name set forth above or by any other name."

Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch on Thursday for more news from Wednesday night's council meeting.

And click here for more Whitehall Borough news.


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MSgt. John DeLallo March 02, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Sean: Pennsylvania's Firearm Preemption Statute covers firearms. Other devices that launch a projectile (slingshots, bow and arrow, pea shooters) are at the discretion of local communities who may, or may not, forbid carrying them about.
MSgt. John DeLallo March 02, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Simply carrying a firearm in an establishment that serves alcohol is not in itself a crime. However, if the owner of the establishment either posts his property as a gun free zone, and one ignores the signage, OR if the owner asks the person carrying a firearm to leave and that person does not, the likelihood of being arrested for defiant trespass is high.
MSgt. John DeLallo March 02, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Chris: Correct. Common sense tells us that a loaded gun and a loaded patron might lead to an issue. There have been so few shootings in bars, though, that yet another law to forbid the practice of carrying in a bar would be unecessary. Again, since we're talking private property, any saloon keeper can post a "No Guns" sign.
MSgt. John DeLallo March 02, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Way to go Mike! Obviously, your friends at FOAC have been following this issue carefully. Bravo Zulu to the municipality for retracting this old ordinance.
MSgt. John DeLallo March 03, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Chris--you are correct with one very notable exception. Open Carry in a city of the First Class requires a License to Carry Firearms. Pennsylvania has one such city, Philadelphia. If you open carry in Philadelphia, you ARE going to get rousted and hassled. See Fiorino v City of Philadelphia and several YouTube clips on the subject.


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