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Thorpe man leads gun protection movement

A “Second Amendment Sanctuary” movement sweeping the nation is making its way through Carbon County.

Brandon Bell, a Jim Thorpe native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, has visited about 10 boroughs and townships over the last month asking government officials to consider adopting an ordinance that usually rejects the enforcement of state or federal gun laws perceived to violate the Second Amendment.

Bell said he became concerned with proposed federal laws such as H.R. 127, which deals with the licensing of firearm and ammunition possession, and would prohibit the possession of certain ammunition, and H.R. 130, which deals with the storage of firearms and ammunition.

“I’m just worried about where we’re headed with some of this,” Bell said. “What this really does is protects the rights of everyone who owns a gun.”

So far, Bell has visited municipalities such as Jim Thorpe Borough, Towamensing and Lower Towamensing townships, Weissport Borough and Franklin Township, among others. The proposed ordinance has been well-received and Bell is pleased government officials have been willing to listen. While some residents have spoken up against the movement, he said much of it stems from misunderstanding of its intent.

“I don’t think a lot of people truly understand what this does and what it doesn’t do,” Bell said. “This doesn’t make things a free-for-all and turn Carbon County into the Wild West. If you go out and break a law using a gun, you will be prosecuted. This doesn’t protect you from that, this protects you from unconstitutional laws.”

Locally, Bowmanstown adopted a resolution declaring the borough a sanctuary in January. West Manheim Township supervisors approved the ordinance in February 2020 and, one month later, Jackson Township in Lebanon County did the same.

Bell said the timing was right to start the movement in Carbon County.

“I wasn’t too concerned until the Republicans lost control of the Senate,” he said. “After the Georgia runoff election, that is when I really knew I had to do this.”

Opponents, such as the advocacy group CeaseFire PA, argue the ordinance is mostly symbolic.

“This is a fearmongering tactic from the gun lobby that flies in the face of the majority of Pennsylvanians who support commonsense gun legislation like expanded background checks, keeping firearms out of the hands of those with active protection from abuse orders, or allowing families to limit the firearms access of a loved one threatening suicide or harm to others,” the group said on its website.

Bell started a petition on the Change.org website that had 836 signatures as of Friday morning.

“I was really surprised at how it took off,” Bell said. “I set a goal of 50 people per week and by the end of the second day it was close to or over 100. When it hit 300 signatures, that is when government officials actually started calling me and said I think we need to talk about this.”

The petition speaks of hunting and shooting, which Bell calls a “way of life” in Carbon County.

“It is more than just a hobby,” he said in the petition. “To us, it is a means for self-defense whether it be a wild animal, robber or a tyrant government. It provides an opportunity for us to put food in the freezer and on the table. In ways of sport, it provides a way of college scholarships, friendship and just a way to blow off steam.”

Weeknights have been busy for Bell. He has tried to average three government meetings a week and is mostly running the ordinance advocacy as a one-man show.

“I work for a construction company doing asbestos abatement and so I get home around 6 and I’m in my suit by 6:15 and a meeting by 6:30 a lot of times,” he said.

One of the ultimate goals, Bell said, is to get the ordinance before the Carbon County Commissioners.

“No matter where you fall politically, you should want to defend what is on paper, not what you think should be on paper,” Bell said. “I was in the military and lost a lot of friends. All of the men and women who served and who have given their lives did so in vain if we just throw out the Constitution.”