The owner of a Lower Merion gun store has followed through on his threat to sue the township for trampling on his constitutional right to sell firearms.
Grant Schmidt is the founder of Shot Tec LLC, holds a federal firearms license (FFL) in Bala Cynwyd, and provides training in the use of firearms. He also sells guns and other equipment through his website. For more than a year, he has been embroiled in a major controversy in the community and fighting a group of residents who are trying to block him from doing business — or run him out of town completely.
According to court documents, Schmidt, Shot Tec, and Firearms Owners Against Crime — Institute for Legal, Legislative and Educational Action (FOAC-ILLEA), a pro-gun PAC, are suing Lower Merion Township for enacting an ordinance that prohibits Schmidt from operating out of his current location at Montgomery and Bala Avenues. He has plans to open a second, larger location in the future, but Lower Merion’s new law could hamper that move.
The ordinance, passed unanimously by the board of commissioners in April, restricts where guns can be sold throughout the township by limiting sales to only four commercial districts. It also bans sales and transfers from people’s homes.
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Schmidt says this is illegal. In court filings, he cites a section of the state’s Uniform Firearms Act:
“No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms…”
During township meetings, residents have taken aim at Schmidt’s business for trying to arm members of Bala Cynwyd’s largely Jewish community who are disproportionately affected by gun violence. An online petition has garnered more than 2,000 signatures condemning Shot Tec, primarily for its proximity to several schools in the area. Schmidt, who is Jewish, said that schools, synagogues and other places targeted by antisemitic attacks ought to be prepared for the next one.
“If you’re faced with the same attackers from Columbine, the Tree of Life synagogue, Parkland — you name it — what are you doing differently? Because you can’t do the same thing and expect different results,” he said. “And if people’s solution is, ‘oh, we’re gonna give Shot Tec a hard time,’ they are not serious. I am the solution to the problem. I am not the problem.”
Reached by phone, Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners President Todd Sinai said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
Schmidt is seeking injunctive relief in the form of a court order declaring the township’s FFL ordinance unlawful and for the township to pay his legal fees. An August court date has been set for a preliminary hearing.
Jenny DeHuff has been a multimedia journalist for the past 15 years in Philadelphia. Her bylines include the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Playboy Magazine, The Morning Call, and Philly Voice. She’s won multiple awards for investigative journalism. @RuffTuffDH