GOP state Senate hopefuls spar over firearms bans

From left: Steve McDonald, Lloyd Smucker and Paul Thibault

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Republican Steve McDonald attacked two of his GOP rivals Monday, saying their support for gun rights is suspect.
McDonald, the Lancaster County recorder of deeds who is running for state Senate in the 13th District, took fellow Republicans Lloyd Smucker and Paul Thibault to task for not undoing gun-ban ordinances while they served in public office. Smucker has been a supervisor in West Lampeter Township for three years, and Thibault is a former county commissioner.
McDonald said the state Constitution says people have a right to bear arms "in defense of themselves."
"What part of that is so confusing to Paul and Lloyd?" McDonald said.
McDonald, Smucker, Thibaultand Bill Neff, a local business owner who lives in York County, are Republicans running fortheSenate in the 13th District, which covers Lancaster city, Manheim Township, southern Lancaster County and a portion of eastern York County. The primary will be held April 22.
The winner of the GOP nomination likely will face Jose Urdaneta, the only Democrat seeking his party's endorsement for the seat, in the general election this fall.
McDonald targeted Thibault and Smucker because they attended the National Rifle Association banquet in Lancaster Saturday.
McDonald, who also attended the banquet, criticized Smucker for not undoing a West Lampeter ordinance that prohibits "any firearms, bows and arrows, air or spring rifles, slings, or any other weapon" on township property such as parks and pavilions.

As for Thibault, McDonald said the former commissioner "enacted the controversial park ordinance that prevents law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves and their families on public land."
McDonald spokesman Seth Wimer pointed to a 2001 revision of Lancaster County Central Park rules that did not address the gun prohibition as proof of Thibault's support for banning guns in the public arena.
In a phone interview Monday, however, Thibault argued that when the rules were revised, the sole focus of the revisions was to mandate that users of the new skate park wear protective equipment. They had nothing to do with the gun ban, he said, which dates to the 1970s.
"Very frankly, I didn't know there was a ban on guns in the county park," Thibault said. "Our focus was the skate park.
"(McDonald's campaign) needs to be looking forward at the problems the state faces today, not at some obscure regulation from a generation ago."
In Smucker's case, Wimer conceded there has been no outcry from West Lampeter residents to overturn the gun ban. "Lloyd could have come into office to support gun rights … but instead this park ordinance stands," Wimer said.
Smucker said the township park ordinance has never been an issue for his constituents.
"Most of our parks are small neighborhood parks," Smucker said. "The ordinance was written before I was on the board of supervisors, and not one time has a resident come to a meeting or contacted me regarding any part of the ordinance."
Nonetheless, Smucker said he was going to investigate whether the ordinance is constitutional. "I will certainly look into it," he said. "If true there's a restriction preventing the carrying of firearms, I'll put it on the agenda for the next meeting and we'll push to correct the problem."

McDonald said if elected he would push for passage of what's known as "The Castle Doctrine," which allows homeowners to use deadly force in the event of an intruder. He said he's against the state adding serial numbers to handgun ammunition and supports "ensuring that Pennsylvania's public lands continue to be open and accessible for hunters, shooters and sportsmen."
Thibault and Smucker both said Monday they are strong supporters of the Second Amendment.

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