PA Supreme Court sides with Stroud Township over ban of backyard gun range

FILE - The Pennsylvania Judicial Center, home to the Commonwealth Court, is seen on Feb. 21, 2023, in Harrisburg, Pa. A township ordinance that limits firing guns to indoor and outdoor shooting ranges and zoning that significantly restricts where the ranges can be located do not violate the Second Amendment, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By Ashley Adams

February 22, 2024

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a Stroud Township law that prohibits gun ranges in designated residential areas does not violate the Second Amendment.

The Stroud Township ordinance limiting where guns can be fired and where shooting ranges can be located does not violate the Second Amendment, according to a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Jonathan Barris challenged the township ordinance that limits firing guns to indoor and outdoor shooting ranges and zoning that significantly restricts where ranges can be located. After moving into a home in the Poconos in 2009, Barris installed a shooting range on his 5-acre property in the Monroe County township.

Barris drew complaints from his neighbors and in late 2011, the Stroud Township Board of Supervisors passed what the courts described as a “discharge ordinance,” restricting gunfire to indoor and outdoor gun ranges, as long as they were issued zoning and occupancy permits. It also said guns couldn’t be fired between dusk and dawn or within 150 feet of an occupied structure — with exceptions for self-defense, by farmers, by police, or at indoor firing ranges.

The net effect, wrote Justice Kevin Dougherty, was to restrict the potential construction of shooting ranges to about a third of the entire township. Barris’ home did not meet those restrictions.

Barris sought a zoning permit after he was warned he could face a fine as well as seizure of the gun used in any violation of the discharge ordinance. He was turned down for the zoning permit based on the size of his lot, proximity to other homes and location outside the two permissible zoning areas for ranges.

While a county judge ruled for the township, in 2021 the Commonwealth Court called the discharge ordinance to be in violation of Barris’ Second Amendment rights.

Dougherty, writing for the majority, said Stroud Township’s discharge ordinance “is fully consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” He included pages of examples, saying that “together they demonstrate a sustained and wide-ranging effort by municipalities, cities, and states of all stripes — big, small, urban, rural, Northern, Southern, etc. — to regulate a societal problem that has persisted since the birth of the nation.”

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  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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