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.
"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
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.
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