Several Manheim Township residents decried “political correctness” at a meeting Monday night on a zoning proposal that would effectively ban sales and advertisements for guns near schools.
During the public hearing, which did not end with a vote, commissioners heard from students and representatives for Lancaster Country Day School, as well as a half-dozen residents mostly opposed to the proposal.
The school seeks to create a 1,000-foot “gun shop-free school zone” around its campus near President Avenue and Harrisburg Pike as well as all other educational institutions in the suburb.
The two-pronged proposal would forbid gun shops in Manheim Township within 1,000 feet of the Lancaster Township school, as well as ban any pictures or drawings of guns that “promote the use or sale of firearms” within the same zone.
Attorney Joshua Cohen, who is representing the school free of charge, said the measures are needed to ensure students have a “lessened sense of a threat of gun violence hanging over their heads.”
Three students from Lancaster Country Day spoke before the board in support of the school’s proposal, saying the potential future presence of a gun shop would make it “difficult for students to feel safe.”
That language annoyed some residents.
“I don’t understand what compelling reason a township may have in order to protect the feelings of a small group,” township resident Howard Horn said.
“If I (was) a vegan and got a petition because my feelings were hurt when Burger King put images of hamburgers in their windows, would you entertain that petition?”
Others scorned the ban for “political correctness” and said the proposals — especially the signage ban — was unconstitutional.
Just one parent, a Manheim Township School District parent and teacher, spoke in favor of the proposed zoning changes at the meeting.
Country Day Assistant Head of School Todd Trout said the zone idea “could serve as an inspiration to other towns and communities to do the same.”
Cohen acknowledged Philadelphia was the only other municipality in Pennsylvania that passed a comparable measure restricting gun shops near residential neighborhoods. That ordinance was upheld by a commonwealth court.
Manheim Township commissioners have previously voiced concern about the proximity of gun sales near schools.
When The Gun Gallery first opened at Dillerville Road and Harrisburg Pike in February 2018, Manheim Township Commissioner Albert Kling told a group of parents, teachers and school administrators at a meeting that the commissioners shared their concerns, according to previous LNP reporting.
“We feel we’ve been had,” he said at the time.
The Gun Gallery closed in February after the shop was forced out by a state constable through a court order. The store was blocks away from Lancaster Country Day and Franklin & Marshall College.
However, in a rezoning proposal in March 2018 for the same parcel that formerly housed The Gun Gallery, commissioners negotiated a condition to prevent the future presence of a gun shop on the property.
Commissioners may vote on the ordinance as soon as the next regular meeting Sept. 23.