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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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cc February 21, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Never knew this law existed as I always have my gun on me. Thanks Mike Kozak for getting the law changed.
Rock Solid February 21, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Pardon the pun but the boro dodged a bullet. Serious and responsible gun owners knew all along that this ordinance was illegal and frankly I'm surprised that it is just now coming to light and that the boro heretofore hasn't faced a lawsuit. Gun owners that I personally know are actually nice people and abide by the law. We do not wish not to intiminate; therefore, we conceal our firearms legally. One should be concerned that continued bashing and bullying of gun owners by an uninformed public may result in a backlash such as a open carry trend. Don't rock the boat!
Charlie P Forquer February 21, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Do I want to live in Whitehall?
20 Year Resident of Baldwin/Whitehall February 21, 2013 at 04:04 PM
No one is bashing or bullying gun owners, but you can't fault people for having the opinion that gun ownership should not be as easy as it is currently. Gun violence is a real problem to which Whitehall is no exception. I frankly don't care if you want to carry a gun legally after passing a background check and obtaining training to ensure that you use it and store it safely. I do have a problem when the latter conditions are not met, however. I want a safer world for my children...and yours.
Margaret French February 21, 2013 at 04:38 PM
I agree. I have always carried my gun in Whitehall too.
Pat February 21, 2013 at 05:40 PM
I wish we were as exercised over infringing the 1st Amendment as we are the 2nd.
Jon Wain February 21, 2013 at 07:33 PM
We are headed back to the Barkleys and Cartright day and age. It's quickly becoming a status issue if you don't carry.Just like the cell phone.Your out of touch if you don't have one. Who needs police when all our gun slingers are amongst us ready willing and armed. After all they carry to protect them selves.The same logic is used by the patron who parties on the southside and ends up shooting people.He has the righ to carry and if he left it at home he would of had to resort to the old way of proving his status amongst men
Bottle February 21, 2013 at 09:04 PM
The idea that someone can get drunk at a bar and shoot at people with a gun (or even carry a gun while intoxicated) doesn't seem to be relevant at all to this article since that is entirely illegal.
Margaret French February 21, 2013 at 11:11 PM
If you don't want to live in Whitehall then don't. I don't think anyone will miss you.
cc February 22, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Since I don't go to bars nor do I drink, I don't worry about being down in the South Side. People don't carry guns like cell phones either. People against guns are so clueless.
Sean Duggan February 22, 2013 at 02:37 PM
I'm a little bit baffled that guns are legal to carry, but slingshots aren't. Is it a licensing issue?
old man February 22, 2013 at 02:55 PM
I never knew Whitehall had this ordinance. I live in Whitehall have a carry permit and do carry a firearm. I like most people am a responsible gun owner and very few people know that I carry a weapon. It is not necessary for people to know. Fortunately Whitehall changed this illegal ordinance before it cost them money in a lawsuit.
Robert Edward Healy, III February 22, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Sean, I can't say for sure why the council decided to keep things like slingshots illegal. Perhaps it's because they are less likely to be used for self-defense.
Marie S. February 26, 2013 at 04:07 AM
Thank you Kozack. I am glad that there are guys like you paying attention. I wonder what other asinine ordinances there are out there we don't know about? You can't carry your own, legal, personal property? WT!? I hope House Bill 805 passes.
cc February 26, 2013 at 04:27 AM
JIm what you say is so true. "gun owners are nice people and obey the laws." I have never seen someone who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon show a gun out in public nor intimidate anyone.
cc February 26, 2013 at 04:33 AM
20 Year Resident, it isn't the ones that have permits that you have to worry about gun violence. It is the people who get guns off the streets with the serial numbers filed off them that you have to worry about. When I first got my permit in the 70's, I had to have a background check, have a mug shot taken and my finger prints taken. Most gun owners do store their guns safely at home. I also taught my children gun safety and they took classes at the shooting club. It would be a safer world if we could get guns off the people who acquire guns illegally.
cc February 26, 2013 at 04:36 AM
Jon you do know there are laws that you can't carry a gun into a bar. Most, not all people who carry concealed weapons do not carry guns into them, just like movie theaters. If someone had their gun in the movie theater the night of the shooting, bet many wouldn't of been killed.
christopher v. lang III February 26, 2013 at 08:28 PM
There are no state laws that prevent a person with a permit to carry, preventing them from carrying in a bar...federal and state buildings, post office and courts yes....but would like to know what what part of law prevents permit holder from carrying in bar??????????
Sean Duggan February 26, 2013 at 08:45 PM
I'm not familiar with PA's CC laws, but when I lived in Ohio and they passed a Concealed Carry law, part of the text allowed any business to put up a sign prohibiting concealed weapons. Our local community theater did so, in part because a majority of the board was anti-CC and in part because we wanted to avoid a situation where a half-asleep patron woke up to see someone on-stage with a gun and took drastic measures.
Chris February 26, 2013 at 10:42 PM
In PA open carry is legal. Conseal carry, a permit is required.
Chris February 27, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Valentine, it is legal to carry in a bar, gun etiquitette strongly suggests against it, 9th commandment of firearm safety Guns and alcohol do not mix.
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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