Proposal to end gun sales, ads near schools introduced in Manheim Township


LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – A proposal to ban the sale and advertisement of guns within so-called “gun shop-free zones” went before Manheim Township commissioners during a public hearing Monday evening.

Lancaster Country Day School is behind the two-part proposal.

School administrators said an old gun shop that opened near campus last year — Gun Gallery, Inc. which has since closed — caused worry and issues for students who walked by it on their way to school.

Around the same time of that shop’s opening, a false intruder alert at the school further put students and faculty on edge.

Those events coincided with the Parkland shooting in Florida, in February 2018, which only contributed to fears among students, school leaders said Monday.

Their proposal seeks to establish a 1,000-foot buffer zone around any school in Manheim Township. In that buffer zone, there would be no sale of any guns and no photos that include guns or advertise the use of them.

“What we’re trying to do is set best practices for what communities think the area around schools should be like,” said Todd Trout, the assistant head of school for Lancaster Country Day School.

“We want to be part of that conversation. Should we have gun shops right next to schools? Should we have large billboards of gun images right next to schools in 2019?” Trout sid.

Students and the public also weighed in at Monday’s meeting.

“Having advertisements and imagery of guns near our school makes it hard for students to feel safe in their learning environment,” said Zoe, a junior at Lancaster Country Day.

“Shootings have become a scary reality. Students should not have to fear going to school, risking the idea of a violent intruder,” said Matt, a Lancaster Country Day senior.

“What I have heard is a lot about feelings,” said Howard Horn, a township resident who disagrees with the proposal. “If I was a vegan and got a petition because my feelings were hurt when Burger King put images of hamburgers in their window, would you entertain that petition?”

“If the aim of educational institutions is turning out purposefully-traumatized social justice warriors so our civil rights can be curtailed, their very existence needs to be examined,” said Rick Burke, another opponent of the proposal.

School leaders said they expected such resistance from those who see the proposal as a potential violation of free speech and a restriction on the Second Amendment, but they say their only goal is advocating for safer and more worry-free environments in which students can learn.

“We live in a time when our students have intruder drills in their schools at least as often if not more often than fire drills,” said Josh Cohen, a solicitor for the school. “Children cannot learn well if they do not feel safe.”

A representative from Franklin and Marshall College, which is located near Lancaster Country Day, said the college supports the proposal.

Township commissioners did not take a vote on the two-part proposal Monday, clarifying that the earliest they could take action on it is at their Sept. 23 meeting. The township’s solicitor said the proposal can be approved as-is, have one or both parts amended, or be voted down entirely.

The township’s planning commission previously recommended that commissioners accept the “gun shop-free zone” part of the proposal, but did not recommend accepting the part about signs and ads showing images of guns.

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