Gun-Control Critics Use Novel Law to Gain Ground in Pennsylvania

A new law meant to curtail local gun-control ordinances in Pennsylvania has already put two of the state's largest cities—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—in the National Rifle Association's litigation crosshairs.

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) latest tactic for fighting gun-control laws at the local level seems to be having its intended effect—at least for the most part.

Earlier this month, a law went into effect in Pennsylvania that allows gun-rights groups to sue municipalities over local gun-control measures that conflict with state gun laws. Such local ordinances were already preempted by state law, but courts had held that the NRA and other organizations lacked standing to sue. Now such lawsuits will be easier for groups to bring without individual gun owners as plaintiffs.

If other folks don’t get on board with what the law requires, they can expect to hear from us in due course.

The risk of litigation has proved effective in convincing some municipalities to remove their local measures. Twenty-two communities have either done so or have said that they will, attorney Joshua Prince, who works with gun-rights groups, told the Associated Press.

Other communities are forging ahead. Officials from the state capital of Harrisburg say they plan to defend their law in court, citing the city’s violence.

“I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all of public safety, but I think it’s an important tool to have, and it absolutely sends the wrong message to try to rescind those ordinances, especially given the epidemic of gun violence we have in cities like Harrisburg,” the city’s mayor, Eric Papenfuse, told the AP.

On Wednesday, the NRA announced it would sue three cities that still have ordinances on the books: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster. And lawyers for the group said more suits are already in the works.

“We expect every municipality to repeal ordinances that are preempted. If other folks don’t get on board with what the law requires, they can expect to hear from us in due course,” NRA lawyer Jonathan Goldstein told the AP on Wednesday.

Whatever gun groups do, they won’t have the state’s support on the matter. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has said that state attorneys will not defend the new law in court.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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