Proposal for gun-free zones near schools nixed, commissioners cite legal issues

Lancaster

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A controversial proposal to ban gun sales and images of guns within 1,000 feet of schools in Manheim Township will not move forward, after a vote against it Monday night.

Commissioners were tasked with deciding whether or not to send the request (which sought to amend current zoning ordinances) in its entirety to an official vote or to only send part of it. A public hearing would have also been part of that vote forward. But instead, commissioners decided in a 4-1 vote to steer clear of the issue altogether, voting to kill the request which was first introduced last September by Lancaster Country Day School.

Commissioners said they were worried about potential legal issues and conflicts with state and federal law, including the Constitution, if the request were to be enacted.

Country Day leaders, meanwhile, maintain their only intent was to protect students, not limit rights.

“This was, from our perspective, an unnecessary distraction,” said Steve Lisk, head of school at Lancaster Country Day. “We’re concerned about kids, how well kids learn and how they grow and develop in our society today.”

That distraction, according to Lisk, was a gun shop located within one-thousand feet of his school; it has since closed.

“I think the state laws and the federal laws, prohibit us from doing that,” said Commissioner Thomas O’Brien. “I’d vote for the ordinance if I thought it would really make a difference in protecting our kids.”

Other commissioners agreed the concept is good, but addressing this at the municipal level is the wrong venue.

One man, who identified himself as a constitutional attorney, addressed the board saying his client, Gun Owners Are Good, will file suit if a ban like this one is ever passed.

“You clearly don’t have the authority under the First Amendment to restrict the posting of signs that look like guns,” Paul Rossi said. “It’s ludicrous, I don’t know what this space is that Lancaster Country Day School says, where people are trembling if they see a gun.”

Lisk said after the vote that he was disappointed, but appreciated the commission’s thoughts and comments on their proposal. Lisk added that while there’s no plan-B right now, they won’t stop advocating for students.

“When students are unsettled, when they are frightened, when they are scared, that is a distraction,” Lisk said. “If this is not the right concept, at this level of government, at this moment in time, I hope we find a way to get in front of this.”

Commissioners could have voted to send this proposal to a public hearing and a formal, official vote but ultimately chose not to. They say the school should instead seek help from state legislators and Congress members.

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