West Manheim Township could be the next 'Second Amendment sanctuary'

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Kem Regik, of Virginia, stands on the sidewalk before a pro gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. There was a light crowd early morning Monday outside the Capitol ahead of the rally. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

West Manheim Township supervisors could make the York County municipality a "Second Amendment sanctuary," if a proposed ordinance gets enough votes next week, officials said. 

The ordinance would declare the township's support of rights granted to gun owners under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The movement has gained popularity throughout the country in recent months. It has become an especially heated issue in Virginia following that state Legislature's recent approval of a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons, reported The Associated Press. 

Some gun advocates in Pennsylvania worry similar restrictions could take hold here. Two of the state's top Democratic officials — Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro — have called for new gun restrictions in the wake of several mass shootings.

The Republican-run Pennsylvania Legislature, though, has shown little interest in cracking down on gun ownership. 

"There are some people who feel that it's important to make a statement at the municipal level in support of Second Amendment rights," said West Manheim Township Solicitor Walter Tilley III, who drafted the ordinance. "One way to do that is have the governing body go on the record supporting it." 

The township's board of supervisors this past month directed Tilley to draft the proposed ordinance after resident Fred Walker petitioned local officials to adopt the measure. 

Pro-gun supporters wrapped in flags and carrying guns rally at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Saturday, April 14, 2018. The rallies come less than three weeks after hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, New York and elsewhere to demand tougher gun laws after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17.  (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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In addition to promoting the township as an ally to gun owners, the ordinance would bar township officials from using township money or personnel to interfere with a gun owner's rights, the draft ordinance states. 

Proponents of "Second Amendment sanctuary" ordinances have scored victories throughout the country, especially in rural communities. But opponents say these ordinances are legally meaningless and only serve to stoke unwarranted fears among gun owners.

"As law enforcement, our focus is public safety," said Jacklin Rhoads, a spokeswoman for Shapiro. "The Office of Attorney General is committed to keeping weapons away from individuals who would harm others, while also protecting peoples’ Second Amendment rights."

West Manheim Township supervisors are expected to vote on the proposed ordinance at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the West Manheim Township building, located at 2412 Baltimore Pike.

Gun control proponents have proposed new restrictions for gun owners including universal background checks, assault weapon bans and red flag laws that would permit authorities to temporarily take guns from people deemed "dangerous," according to the LA Times. 

Gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association, have blasted the proposals. 

West Manheim Township officials aren't worried about a potential lawsuit arising should the local ordinance be adopted, Tilley said. 

"That was one of the concerns, that it would need to be compliant with the law," he said. "We took a lot of time to research the ordinance, and I am confident the ordinance complies with all the federal and state laws."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.