After Gun Goes Off at Greater Plymouth Community Center – What is the Law on Guns in Parks

Last weekend a man was shot (likely self inflicted) when he and another man were allegedly comparing guns during a family celebration (we heard baby shower or baptism party) at the Greater Plymouth Community Center in Plymouth Meeting. The would wasn’t fatal.

Many of the comments around social media questioned why anyone would take a gun into the Greater Plymouth Community Center and how it is even allowed.

We asked Chief Joseph Lawrence of the Plymouth Township Police Department about the legality of carrying a gun in Plymouth’s parks and the community center. He replied, “Yes, it is legal to carry with proper permits. Penna is an open carry Commonwealth.”

In 2014, the issue of municipal gun laws was brought to the forefront when then Governor Tom Corbett signed a bill that gave the National Rifle Association, and other organizations, standing to sue local municipalities that had stronger gun laws than the Commonwealth. While the stricter laws varied among the municipalities, the laws mostly involved reporting lost or stolen guns and the banning of guns in parks.

After the law was signed, most of the municipalities involved moved to amend the targeted ordinances to prevent lawsuits. Attorney Sean Kilkenny, who is now the elected Sheriff of Montgomery County and continues to serve as solicitor for several townships, explained in a article how the new law could impact the municipalities involved. From the article:

But Montgomery County Solicitor Sean Kilkenny said he would recommend to Norristown, Jenkintown, and Whitemarsh that they immediately repeal their lost and stolen gun ordinances.

“As a lawyer, we have to advise our clients, and we have to be a little cautious,” he said Tuesday. “If a town like Jenkintown gets sued, a couple hundred thousand dollars would blow a huge hole in their budget.”

Whitemarsh Township’s Board of Supervisors, with Kilkenny serving as solicitor, first voted to repeal its lost and stolen gun reporting ordinance and then also repealed its ban on guns in parks. From the Times Herald:

The board of supervisors approved a motion Thursday to rescind the ban on firearms at township parks. The motion passed 4-0. Councilwoman Amy Grossman was absent.

The supervisors were forced to repeal the ban due to a state law passed a few months ago that allows third parties and private citizens to sue townships with gun policies stricter than the state’s.

If challenged in the ban, the township would be responsible for all legal fees including the plaintiff’s, as well as any other damages and losses.

In Plymouth Township, its Council took action on an ordinance involving discharging firearms. From the Times Herald:

In April 1930, June 1937 and October 2009, the Plymouth ordinances had prohibited the discharge of firearms in the township and listed that action as a criminal offense.

“Whereas the Plymouth Township Council has determined that the citizens of Plymouth Township are protected by various provisions of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code,” the ordinance said, “it is therefore ordained that Chapter 14, Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions of Article I, in general, Sec.14-6, Discharge of Firearms, Etc., Prohibited is hereby repealed.”

Based on what the actual code (see below) and agenda state, we think the Times Herald left out the part about firearms in parks. As you can see below, Section 15-11 references “Firearms and hunting” being prohibited, but then under (a) it notes that “firearms” was repealed on the same date of the meeting that was covered by the Times Herald.

Here is what the code states:

That is what we found to provide some history and context on why firearms are allowed in parks. Let us know what you think in the comments.