A statewide sportsmen's group has offered to pay for Conoy Township's now-famous gun rights-boosting road signs.
The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania has stepped up to pay the nearly $900 price tag for 14 new road signs that state "Welcome to Conoy Twp: THIS IS NOT A GUN FREE ZONE."
The township received national and international attention, and both praise and criticism, over the signs, designed to warn would-be criminals that residents are likely to own guns. Four were spray-painted shortly after being installed on Feb. 4 and 5.
It was originally reported that 16 signs were to be placed.
Township Supervisor Chair Stephen Mohr, whose came up with the idea to install the signs, clarified that the original number ordered was 14, with the possibility of two more at two river boat landings.
According to Mohr, the price, received Friday, was $62 a piece, or $868. Originally, the expected price was reported to be $500.
At the meeting of supervisors on Thursday, Bainbridge resident Wendy Ruhl-Flerx asked how much the signs cost, and Mohr answered that he expected it to be between $500 and $700. He also reported that there had been offers to pay for those signs. (Two individuals also offered, Mohr later said.)
The supervisors voted unanimously to accept what then was an anonymous offer. The group now agreed to be identified, Mohr said Friday.
Strasburg resident Pete Kingsley, treasurer of USP, called Mohr after he read an LNP report about the signs. (Mohr is also a member of USP, serving as chairman of the board.) He thanked Mohr and then contacted USP's president, Randy Santucci, to ask about providing support, to which the board agreed.
Kingsley believes that gun-free zones, in such places as schools and hospitals, don't protect anyone.
"If you advertise 'this is not a gun-free zone,' that lets you know there is protection for those people, whether it's in their home or business. That there are people standing up for their individual rights as citizens of the United States," Kingsley said.
Gun ownership is part of Pennsylvania's heritage, and United Sportsmen stands up for gun rights, stated Santucci, of Robinson Township, Allegheny County.
"Making a statement that we own guns is certainly not something we should shy away from," said Santucci.
As supporters of the Second Amendment, "we saw an opportunity here to help and felt this would be a good thing for us to do," he added.
At the meeting, when supervisors voted to accept the offer, Supervisor Gina Mariani stated, "I think that would be a lot better than paying it out of the township money. Then we won't have to hear it."
She reported that she had received six calls about the signs: two against them altogether, and four in favor of the signs but not the township paying for them.
Earlier during the meeting, Ruhl-Flerx asked how the signs were paid for, and if a vote was taken. Mohr replied that the funds were to come from the general budget and the project was discussed among supervisors last fall at several gatherings. He stated that an official vote wasn't needed to spend the funds.
Mariani said she liked the signs and acknowledged that she and the other supervisors were "chit-chatting back and forth about that." However, she hopes the next time supervisors do something "that's big, that we're going to have to hear about," that they take a vote on it.
Ruhl-Flerx likes the signs, but wasn't pleased with all the publicity and ensuing vandalism.
"I'm glad we have the signs," she said at the meeting, "but that brings yahoos from wherever, thinking, 'Ha, guess what, I'm going to go down there and I'm going to be a smart butt, and I'm going to attempt to do this' and then they get shot, and then what's it look like for us?"
In response to interest from the public in buying additional signs and other collectibles, supervisors voted to set up a committee to oversee those sales, with the profits to benefit the Bainbridge Fire Company and the township summer playground program.
Mohr said identical signs, and possibly yard signs, bumper stickers, window stickers and T-shirts will be sold. Interested persons can check the township's website at www.conoytownship.org for information hopefully by next week, he added.