Council plans to repeal gun ban on borough property

By MaryAlice Meli

New Castle News
__ AUG 2007

Tonight, Ellwood City Council plans to repeal the ban enacted last month on carrying guns into borough buildings and vehicles.

The only exceptions were certified w enforcement officers.

“We’re going to repeal it,” Glenn Jones, council president, said last night.

“We can’t ban guns as I understand it,” noted vice president Tony Court last night. “It’s unconstitutional. We thought we could do it because they’re banned in the courthouse. I guess we may have overstepped our bounds; our stance is to back off a bit.”

Borough solicitor Edward Leymarie Jr. noted last week he supports council’s action, saying this is not a fight he would recommend council undertake.

Pressure on council to repeal its action came in a letter from the National Rifle Association and from a group that founded a Web site — — that advocates openly carrying guns.

In a 1996 opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Ortiz v the Commonwealth that assault weapons bans enacted in ordinances in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were not valid. Both are home-rule cities.

Chief Justice John P. Flaherty wrote that the General Assembly has said, “no cities, municipalities or townships may — in any manner — regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of Pennsylvania.”

Flaherty held that the law extends to home-rule cities as well as all other municipalities in the state.

Michael Stollenwerk of Mountville, Pa., and John Pierce of Bristol, Va., are co-founders of, a Web site that advocates the legal right of ordinary citizens to carry weapons openly.

Stollenwerk noted it is legal for anyone over age 18 to openly carry guns in holsters on the hip in 44 U.S. states, including Pennsylvania. The only places excepted are schools, courthouses, state parks and the Capitol in Harrisburg.

It is illegal to carry guns only if the guns are concealed. Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit.

The Web site notes this stems from the frontier days when many of those who wore concealed guns were up to no good.

Stollenwerk has been quoted in a Lancaster County newspaper as saying, “We shouldn’t have gun bans anywhere where there isn’t real security.”

Dom Viccari, Ellwood’s borough manager, said banning guns from the municipal building was a way to protect borough building employees, especially on days when the electric department must shut off non-paying customers. He noted today’s society is much less predictable and dangerous than in the past.


Epilogue - gun ban repealed!


Published August 21, 2007 10:17 am -

Ellwood council repeals weapons ban

New Castle News


Ellwood City council Monday night unanimously repealed its ban on possessing weapons in borough buildings, vehicles or property. Enacted July 16, the measure would have become law at the end of council’s meeting. Mayor Don Clyde had planned to veto it, even though council had the five votes needed to override his veto under the state’s boroughs code. Council had received letters from the National Rifle Association as well as a group that advocates carrying weapons openly, which is legal, pressuring the board to reconsider its action. Resident Harry Guy of Orchard Avenue, a vocal NRA member, thanked council for repealing the ordinance, but when president Glenn Jones asked him to meet with a council committee to create an acceptable gun ban, Guy declined. “If it’s just to enact another gun ban, that would be just an exercise in futility,” he said. Councilman Anthony “Lefty” DeCarbo asked solicitor Edward Leymarie Jr. whether Ellwood City could prevail in court should the NRA or others sue the borough for passing another ordinance. “You are looking at a lot of legal challenges,” Leymarie said. “The state Legislature has pre-empted municipalities from enacting a ban.” Leymarie suggested that council request the state Legislature reconsider the exceptions to its law that “no counties, municipalities or townships may, in any manner, regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried for purposes not prohibited by the laws of the Commonwealth.” Jones said he doesn’t understand why council cannot ban weapons in the borough building when they can be banned elsewhere. Exceptions to the law where firearms may be prohibited are schools, courthouses, state parks and the state capitol. Leymarie said council should impress on the state general assembly that certain things go on now in municipal buildings that can negatively affect public safety. DeCarbo noted clerks in the electric office have suffered verbal abuse from customers on days when some residential services are shut off because of nonpayment. Some have suggested permanently closing the window through which the public may make payments or payment arrangements in person because there is a drop box at the building’s rear. Both DeCarbo and Councilwoman Angela Valvano conceded that a court fight on this issue could be costly for borough taxpayers with no guarantee of a win. Valvano added that if someone is intent on using gun violence, there is little to be done to prevent it. Clyde vetoed another ordinance that council had enacted last month that establishes the powers and duties of the police chief. He claims that council — in violation of the borough code — has usurped his powers as mayor by listing what the police chief’s duties will be, power he said belongs to the mayor. However, council unanimously over-rode that veto Monday night. Leymarie said council has the power to create the position of chief and outline the duties; the mayor’s power is limited to seeing that he or she carries out those duties. Clyde said his attorney, Tom Leslie, will file for injunctive relief from the ordinance in common pleas court. The next step, he added, will be decided by the court. Clyde said he also is considering a personal lawsuit against members of council for allowing him to be locked out of the police department and given access only in the company of a police officer. He said this prevents him from doing his job as mayor.