Of course, it won't change anything for me personally, as I was already aware that state law was the only authority on the matter. Because of that fact, I simply ignored the invalid and unenforceable rule and carried my firearm with me when visiting York County parks (just as I do when I go anywhere else).
After reviewing the new language, it became clear that while it does not violate Pennsylvania's Preemption statute, the authors -- and presumably their counsel who reviewed it -- do not have a complete and clear understanding of Pennsylvania's firearm laws.
The new park rule language requires that firearms be "properly registered ... in accordance with Pennsylvania law." I own several firearms, and I carry a firearm on a daily basis. Allow me to make a confession: Not a single one of my firearms is registered.
I'm sure many of you are wondering why I would put my name to such a statement, especially in such a public manner. It's quite simple. In Pennsylvania, there is NO "registration" of firearms. In fact, statute expressly forbids it. This means that I meet the requirements of the new park rule -- because not having my firearms registered is indeed "in accordance with Pennsylvania law." As such, the mention of "registration" in the new rule is superfluous and absolutely meaningless from a standpoint of enforcement.
While those in York County government certainly aren't the first to demonstrate what they don't know, the fact that they are not alone does not absolve them from the legal responsibility of such ignorance. Though the Commissioners rightly closed the door on one violation, Thomas Brant (executive director of the York County Department of Parks and Recreation) quickly opened up another with his comments, published in the York Dispatch on Dec. 29, 2008.
According to the article printed, Mr. Brant suggests that "county park rangers will try to discourage people from openly carrying guns." However, such behavior would not only again present a conflict with Pennsylvania's Preemption statute, but would also place any party who actually participated in this type of "discouragement" in violation of Pennsylvania's Official Oppression statute.
Obviously, the county recognizes that it is absolutely legal to carry a firearm that is not concealed, yet for some reason, there are those who simply aren't satisfied with just following the law, and feel that they must insert their personal opinion into the matter -- never mind the limits set by statute or Pennsylvania's Home Rule Law.
The Official Oppression statute establishes that anyone who "denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power or immunity" can be found guilty of this offense. A conviction under this section is a second degree misdemeanor, which is sufficient to classify that person as "prohibited," and bar them from owning, possessing or carrying firearms for life.
Also, few municipal officials realize that a violation of Pennsylvania's Preemption statute is not a trivial matter. The offense is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, which has the same level of legal severity as "involuntary manslaughter." When this offense occurs, there is also the risk of criminal conspiracy charges against each individual directly involved, because of the fact that this is a long-settled matter of case law, and upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Ortiz v. Commonwealth -- 1996). Of course, all of this is before any civil action occurs.
By now, many are familiar with the situation in Lebanon, but Lebanon is not the only locale where citizens have taken the time to familiarize themselves with what the law actually says, and are standing up for their rights. Dickson City and Allentown are also currently defendants in federal suits revolving around various civil rights issues (some firearm related, some not) and both Pittsburgh and West Mifflin Borough are dangerously close to litigation as well.
Government bodies, both small and large, throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, are beginning to recognize that just because some of us cling to our guns and religion doesn't mean that we are not educated, articulate, and willing to stand up against them when it's necessary to remind them that not only do we know our rights, but that we also still have the desire to exercise them.
Kudos to York County officials for avoiding "the hard way" at this most recent fork in the road. Let's hope they continue to make such appropriate decisions as they continue on their way.
Greg Rotz is a member of Pennsylvania Open Carry (paopencarry.org), and lives in Chambersburg. After success fully challenging his own LTCF revocation in January of 2008, he has become in creasingly involved in various aspects of firearm rights and activism across Pennsylvania.