Ramsey tables vote on gun law, preparing for lawsuits – NorthJersey.com

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The New Jersey Second Amendment Society says it will sue if the Borough Council bans the firing of weapons in gun ranges.

RAMSEY — Bracing for potential litigation, the Borough Council postponed voting this week on an ordinance that would prohibit weapons from being fired in gun ranges until it hires a legal defense.

More than 100 people packed into the council chambers Wednesday night, when the council had been expected to vote on the proposed law change, which could affect a 60,000-square-foot indoor firing range that a Pennsylvania developer wants to open in Ramsey.

But the council instead opted to hold off on voting in light of a recent letter sent by the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, which said it would file a complaint if the ordinance passed.

Mayor Deidre Dillon said the letter threatened “costly and protracted litigation.”

The borough is expected to take up the ordinance again on Feb. 22. Before that vote, Dillon said, the borough will retain a national law firm on a pro bono basis. She did not say what firm the borough plans to retain.

“The mayor and council will do what we believe is the best interests of the borough and its residents,” Dillon said.

Second Amendment Society President Alexander Roubian, a Ramsey High School graduate, said his organization “has a very strong case,” citing a recent U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision out of Chicago that ruled gun ranges are protected under the Second Amendment.

Comparing that case to the current controversy in Ramsey, Roubian said, “The same level of arrogance is here tonight.”

Dillon said the borough will “take its chances” in court.

A Pennsylvania developer has proposed renovating the former Liberty Travel building on Spring Street into a full-service firing range — dubbed the Screaming Eagle Club — complete with 67 firing stalls, a space for retail sales and a restaurant.

A week after the Planning Board began hearing the developer’s application, the council sought to change a 1961 borough ordinance that prohibits the firing of “any pistol, shotgun, rifle or other type of firearms anywhere in the borough.”

The ordinance currently exempts indoor and outdoor firing ranges. The council wants to remove that exemption.

“Recent events have given us cause to strengthen and further clarify the existing ordinance,” said Councilman Peter Kilman.

Removing the firing range exception would apply to the Screaming Eagle Club proposal.

James Jaworski, the developer’s attorney, said his client will move forward with the application regardless of whether the council passes the ordinance or not. In a Feb. 6 letter to the borough, he said the ordinance would not survive “constitutional scrutiny.”

“We believe we’ll get the ordinance overturned,” Jaworski said Wednesday.

He also referenced the Chicago decision Wednesday.

“The Second Amendment protects not just the right to keep and bear arms, but the right to be proficient in the keeping and bearing of arms,” Jaworski said.

Another Planning Board hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Dozens of residents spoke Wednesday night, both in support of the range and against it.

Resident Ellen O’Keefe said she is pro-Second Amendment, but against an influx of guns into the borough.

“We like our town as it is, a bucolic, beautiful town, that is safe for our children,” she said. “This is absolutely a safety issue.”

Local teacher Patricia Zachmann urged the council to “do whatever you can to protect our children and our families.”

Charles Rapp, whose home neighbors the Liberty Travel property, said he was unsure of the effect on his property values and family’s safety.

“I don’t know what this entails in the future for my family,” he said.

Email: nobile@northjersey.com

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