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Upper Burrell repeals 1973 gun safety ordinance

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By George Guido
Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 1:36 a.m.

The Upper Burrell supervisors on Monday night repealed a gun safety ordinance enacted in 1973.

But a replacement ordinance might not be enacted.

By a 3-0 vote, supervisors took the 41-year-old ordinance off the books. It dealt with prohibiting center-fired rifles and pistols.

Solicitor Steve Yakopec said the ordinance could have been in conflict with state laws, such as those that uphold the so-called “Castle Doctrine,” which allows people to use deadly force in their homes in self-defense.

The ability to establish target shooting ranges was called into question with the old ordinance.

Yakopec wrote a replacement ordinance that deals with discharging firearms.

But supervisors delayed any action on the proposal.

Supervisors Chairman Ross Walker III asked for a show of hands signaling support for not replacing the ordinance, and the vast majority of the 49 residents in attendance favored no new measures.

Only four raised their hands when asked if a new ordinance should be explored.

“I think there are numerous unsafe factors, and a new ordinance is a perfect way of addressing this,” resident Ron Slade said. “This gets to the point and deals with safety factors and protects property with a dwelling.”

Slade, who added that he is a member of the National Rifle Association, said the organization “stands for responsible use of firearms.”

Maxine Gregg said there was no need for any more laws.

“There are an adequate number of gun laws and noise ordinances or laws about disturbing the peace,” Gregg said.

Resident Dan Myers said careless shooting is “covered by criminal endangerment laws.”

In Yakopec's proposed ordinance, discharging any firearm within a safety zone as defined in the state game and wildlife code would be illegal in the township.

The state definition includes “within 150 yards of any occupied house, building, camp, barn, stable or other building use without permission of the property owner.”

Walker said anyone who shoots on his or her own property would be presumed to have permission to do so.

New ordinance exemptions include law enforcement or military personnel acting within the line of duty.

Another exemption recognizes the Castle Doctrine, and another complies with state laws regarding using a firearm to control wildlife, livestock and poultry.

The proposal allows firearms use “within a properly constructed and legally permitted firing range.”

In other business

• Township engineer Dave Kerchner said the landslide repairs on Lower Drennen Road should begin soon.

• Supervisors voted to buy a new Ford Explorer police car for $26,000 under the state's Piggy-Back Program, a cooperative available to municipalities to get favorable prices on items such as police vehicles.

The money will be taken out of the general fund, including another $5,000 to outfit the vehicle.

The old Dodge Durango police vehicle, which has more than 100,000 miles, will remain available.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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