A community group gun ban: what do the River Wards think?

After one Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil in the city banned ci­vil­ian mem­bers, even those with per­mits, from car­ry­ing guns to its meet­ings - it could be the first to ever do so - loc­al com­munity groups say they’ve nev­er con­sidered en­act­ing such a bylaw.

A po­lice dis­trict ad­vis­ory coun­cil last week banned ci­vil­ian mem­bers from car­ry­ing guns to its meet­ings. It could very well be the first time any kind of com­munity group ad­op­ted a weapons ban.

Two civic or­gan­iz­a­tions con­tac­ted by Star said they don’t have such a pro­hib­i­tion.

“We have no such rule or bylaw, said Matt Ruben, pres­id­ent of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation. “I don’t be­lieve it’s ever been con­sidered.”

“To the best of my know­ledge, the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation does not have such a bylaw,” pres­id­ent Phil­lip Stoltz­fus stated Monday. “And as long as I’ve been on the board, it has not been dis­cussed.”

The 2nd Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil’s new bylaw pro­hib­its any­one but sworn law-en­force­ment of­ficers from bring­ing guns to its ses­sions. The ban would ex­tend even to those who have per­mits to carry weapons. The 2nd Po­lice Dis­trict en­com­passes the Lower North­east west of the Roosevelt Boulevard.

The bylaw was ap­proved 19-1 on Feb. 12. It will take ef­fect in 30 days.

“We will be post­ing a sign on the door of the meet­ing room each month,” said Lynn Genetti, the PDAC’s chair­wo­man.

The PDAC is an um­brella or­gan­iz­a­tion made up of com­munity group mem­bers, busi­ness own­ers and edu­cat­ors who reg­u­larly meet with po­lice to ex­change in­form­a­tion about neigh­bor­hood crime trends and poli­cing strategies. PDACs are not open to the gen­er­al pub­lic. Un­like civic groups, PDACs don’t look at zon­ing is­sues. 

“While I un­der­stand that the Po­lice Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil can en­act their own bylaws, I’m sup­pos­ing that their en­act­ing of such a bylaw is due to the par­tic­u­lar nature of what is dis­cussed at their meet­ings,” said Kath­er­ine V. Mick­low, pres­id­ent of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation.

Genetti said her or­gan­iz­a­tion hasn’t had a prob­lem with ci­vil­ians bring­ing guns to its ses­sions. The po­lice of­ficers who at­tend, of course, al­ways are armed. Genetti said she wanted to be pro­act­ive by bring­ing up the sub­ject.

“The re­cent tra­gic events and dis­cus­sions that are oc­cur­ring na­tion­ally,” promp­ted the bylaw pro­pos­al, Lynn Genetti said. 

She was re­fer­ring the on­go­ing pub­lic de­bate pre­cip­it­ated by the Decem­ber murders of 20 school­chil­dren and six adults in New­town, Conn.

“Our meet­ings are de­signed to be safe spaces for civil dia­logue,” Ruben said. “If someone were to bran­dish a weapon at one of our meet­ings, I be­lieve we would ask them to leave. If it ap­peared to be a dan­ger­ous or threat­en­ing situ­ation, we would of course call the po­lice, as any­one would.”

Ruben said the NLNA has no pro­ced­ures in place for check­ing to see if people are bring­ing con­cealed weapons in­to its ses­sions.

“We op­er­ate un­der the as­sump­tion that our meet­ings are not ven­ues where any­one would do so,” he said.

Mike Thaete, pres­id­ent of the 15th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil, said the or­gan­iz­a­tion has no bylaws about car­ry­ing fire­arms to its meet­ings.

“It’s nev­er been an is­sue,” he said Monday.

“We do not have se­cur­ity at our mem­ber­ship meet­ings,” Mick­low stated, “and, thus, tend to gen­er­ally fol­low state law; it’s un­clear that an ad­op­tion of such a bylaw by the FNA would have more au­thor­ity than cur­rent state law.”

The 2nd PDAC’s move might be un­pre­ced­en­ted for any kind of neigh­bor­hood group. Genetti said she is not aware of any oth­er or­gan­iz­a­tions that have banned fire­arms.

“This is new ter­rit­ory,” said Capt. Frank Palumbo, the 2nd Dis­trict’s com­mand­er.

Right now, the cap­tain said, a per­son with a li­cense to carry gun may be ar­res­ted on weapons charges if the gun is brought onto school prop­erty. However, he said he be­lieves in­di­vidu­al prop­erty own­ers may ask people not to carry weapons. If the per­son with the gun re­fuses to leave, Palumbo said, the per­son with the gun might get ar­res­ted on a de­fi­ant tres­pass charge, not a weapons charge.

Al­though those with carry li­censes aren’t break­ing any laws un­less they’re on school prop­erty, the cap­tain said, “I’m aware it makes people un­com­fort­able. … It’s a dis­trac­tion at a pub­lic meet­ing.”

All groups should check on what’s per­mit­ted on the prop­er­ties that host their meet­ings, Lynn Genetti said.

“A re­spons­ible or­gan­iz­a­tion should know all of the rules/reg­u­la­tions for the fa­cil­ity they are us­ing,” she stated.

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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