LEWISBURG — Both sides of a what is becoming a widespread local debate had their say Monday night.
East Buffalo Township supervisors became the latest municipal board to hear from from a group promoting a Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance (SASO). The group brought a sample of an SASO, prepared by the Gun Owners of America (GOA), which if adopted would exempt the township from spending on gun regulations its backers deem unconstitutional.
Shawn Waltman, sanctuary ordinance coordinator, told a crowd of well over 100 people that lawmakers at the state level were trying to strip away gun rights via red flag laws, magazine laws and other restrictions.
“That is what we are trying to stop,” he said. “The Second Amendment is very clear. Citizens have the right to bear arms. The Pennsylvania Constitution says those rights shall not be questioned.”
Buffalo Township recently adopted a revised SASO after being introduced to the idea by Waltman and others in January. Waltman made the distinction at EBT between an enforceable ordinance and resolution, a statement of support without penalties.
SASO supporters included Scott Henninger, a former state trooper, who recalled being assisted by an armed citizen early in his career. Will Zimmerman, Buffalo Township supervisor, offered assistance to the EBT board should they have questions regarding the SASO. Others said they supported the Second Amendment or were “with Shawn (Waltman).”
As Matt Schumacher, East Buffalo Township supervisor chair, read names of attendees for public comment, it was evident that the gathering was split evenly between SASO supporters and red-shirted members of groups supporting “common sense gun laws.”
Lauren Peck, Moms Demand Action group leader, asked that the township not consider the proposal because it was brought by a person who was not a resident. Peck read a statement which questioned the authority of the township to criminalize the enforcement of state law.
“We look to you, our leaders, to fulfill your oath to uphold these laws,” Peck said to the supervisors.
Peck noted the US Supreme Court has upheld certain restrictions, as noted in the often-cited District of Columbia v. Heller decision. It conceded the right to bear firearms was not unlimited. The sentiment that it was the job of the courts to determine what was or was not constitutional was also repeated.
Teresa Yerger of Lewisburg recalled living in fear several years ago when an estranged spouse was homicidal and suicidal. She added that while she understood the need to protect rights of the individual, the rights of victims also need to be considered.
“It was infuriating and terrifying and incredulous that there was nothing that the law provided that could protect me that could take away his firearms,” Yerger said of that time. “I ended up taking his firearms and turning them in to the local police department.”
Similarly, George Bothelo said the proposal brought to the board was a “broad brush stroke.” Citizens and law enforcement could be at risk, he said, and hoped anything unreasonable would be turned down.
Members of Students Demand Action also had their say. They included McKenna Mowry who said she didn’t feel safe in school and wondered daily if there would be an incident.
Meantime, Stacey Kifolo, EBT township manager, told the gathering that the matter would solely be a board decision rather than subject to referendum. She also told the board to look carefully at its duties, responsibilities, obligations and abilities without regard to their personal opinion regarding such a matter.
“The constitutionality of any law, any regulation can only be determined by the court,” Kifolo said. “This board has no authority to say whether or not a state or federal law is unconstitutional. The only way you can make that happen is if that board makes a decision to file suit with the state.”
Schumacher expected the topic to come up at a work session, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24 in the EBT Municipal Building. Discussion of a minor land development plan for the Public Library for Union County will also be taken up at that time.