City Council passes gun rights resolution
Solicitors say enforcement plan exceeds authority
City Council Monday approved a resolution that is currently being considered by all Blair County municipalities, under which no one may use taxpayer money to enforce newly passed laws that would infringe on Second Amendment rights.
Council passed the resolution to comply with a referendum approved in November by all those municipalities and the county as a whole, although council did not add summary criminal enforcement provisions requested recently by members of the groups that proposed the referendum in the first place.
The municipalities lack authorization under state law to add those criminal enforcement provisions, said city solicitor Tom Finn, echoing what Logan Township solicitor Dan Stants said last week when Logan Township passed the same Second Amendment resolution.
The municipalities of the county are acting in compliance with the referendum under the state’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, which doesn’t provide tools for criminal enforcement, Finn said.
The enforcement against municipal officials who would violate the agreement must be by lawsuit, officials have said.
Council passed the resolution Monday as it was drawn up recently by the eight solicitors who represent all the municipalities, despite a plea Monday from Bonita Shreve, president of the Blair County Second Amendment Coalition, which proposed the referendum along with the Blair County Tea Party.
“Hear what your citizens are saying, please,” Shreve urged council. “Fortify our God-given rights and freedoms.”
Such enforcement is necessary given that “the current administration makes a mockery of our Constitution,” and the nation is threatened by “tyranny,” Shreve said.
“Whatever teeth you can put in, please do,” Shreve said. “Make Blair County the backbone of Pennsylvania.”
He’s “sympathetic” with the group’s aims, especially given situations over the last couple of years when it seems there have been cases where “the rule of law was thrown out the window,” Finn said.
But municipalities can’t take actions not authorized by the state, which created those municipalities and which set the framework under which they operate, he said.
It’s not fitting to go outside the law in response to others going outside the law, Finn said.
Maybe council could table the matter, so there could be further discussion on how municipalities could legally incorporate the provisions Shreve wants, said Councilman Dave Butterbaugh, a member of both of the groups that pushed for the referendum.
But all the other municipalities have either passed the resolution or were planning to do it, Finn said.
What would be the “value” of tabling? asked Councilman Jesse Ickes.
It’s probably time “to put the football in the end zone,” he added.
It might have been better had the two groups added the summary criminal enforcement provisions in the referendum, Butterbaugh said.
But it’s not certain that such a referendum would have made it onto the ballot, Finn said.
Adding those provisions now might have “unintended consequences” anyway, Butterbaugh conceded.
Moreover, council members need to uphold the Constitution, as they swear to do when they take their seats, Butterbaugh said.
And all the solicitors were in agreement about the limitations, he said.
Still, it would have been good to hear from the attorneys who have been advising the two groups recently about the criminal enforcement provisions, Butterbaugh said.
The agreement applies to potential legislation passed after Nov. 2 of last year.
Such legislation would likely come from the federal government, Finn said.
The resolution “may not be what everybody wanted,” Butterbaugh said.
Still, “it’s a victory,” he said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.