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Pro-gun group sues Lower Merion over "chilling" guns-in-parks ordinance

Lower Merion Township is facing a lawsuit over a township ordinance that regulates gun possession in public parks.

Gun supporters rallied yesterday in response to an ordinance banning firearms from parks in Lower Merion Township.
Gun supporters rallied yesterday in response to an ordinance banning firearms from parks in Lower Merion Township.Read moreCHANDA JONES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

AN ONGOING BATTLE over a Philadelphia suburb's ordinance regulating guns in parks could wind up in court, after a pro-gun group last week filed a lawsuit against Lower Merion Township, calling its regulation an "egregious and direct violation" of state law.

Firearm Owners Against Crime, a political-action committee; its president, Kim Stolfer; and Joseph Abramson, an FOAC member and gun owner who lives in Lower Merion, are plaintiffs in the suit, filed in Montgomery County Court on Friday.

The pro-gun camp raised the issue with the ordinance - which reads, "No person except authorized members of the Police Department shall carry or discharge firearms of any kind in a park without a special permit, unless exempted" - last year, prompting a township solicitor to recommend a change that would bring it into compliance, according to the suit.

In January, however, Lower Merion Township commissioners voted not to amend or strike the ordinance, spurring a Sunday-afternoon rally in tiny Bala Cynwyd Park earlier this month, during which dozens of pro-gun protesters - many with handguns on their hips - demonstrated.

At that rally, lawyer Joshua Prince, who filed the suit against Lower Merion, warned that legal action was imminent and apologized to township residents, saying they'd incur the costs of a court battle in their taxes.

The suit seeks to have a judge rule that the ordinance is unlawful, order Lower Merion to repeal it and prohibit the township from enacting "any other ordinance, law, or rule that regulates the use, possession, or transfer of firearms." The suit says the ordinance has a "chilling effect" on the township's legal gun owners.

"We were left with no other option but to file suit," Prince said yesterday. "We believe that the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas will agree with us and will invalidate Lower Merion's illegal ordinance."

Tom Walsh, a township spokesman, declined to comment yesterday.