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Pennsylvania Mayors Talk Stricter Gun Control; NRA Raises Alarm

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The mayors of three Pennsylvania cities, including Philadelphia, promise to enact local gun control ordinances that would be stricter than state law, thanks to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in late June that upheld their successful lawsuit against a state law, Act 192.

That has prompted the National Rifle Association’s political action arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, to sound an alarm among the NRA’s membership. The NRA-ILA has also found a friendly state legislator to introduce legislation aimed at stopping the local movement before it goes too far.

All of this action on both sides of the gun control debate happened in just a few days following a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that struck down Pennsylvania Act 192. It was a law that made it easier for groups like the NRA to sue to block enforcement of local gun control ordinances and made it simpler for gun owners who fought City Hall to recover their court costs if they won.

The NRA argues the decision to void PA 192 should not impact Pennsylvania’s firearms preemption law that was passed in 1974, which lays out the concept that state law always trumps local ordinances.

So, the NRA concludes, no community should be able to enact an ordinance that includes tougher gun control provisions than does Pennsylvania law.

But the mayors of Philadelphia, Allentown, and Easton, Pa., don’t see it that way. They started talking about enacting strict gun control in their cities the day after the Supreme Court ruling.

“Act 192 was wrong for both the way in which it was adopted, and its intent to intimidate municipalities in Pennsylvania,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D). “This is a great victory for proper legislative procedure and for the ability of local governments to adopt common sense gun regulations without fear of financially crippling litigation.”

This all happened because Philadelphia joined with several other municipalities and state legislators to sue the Commonwealth to invalidate Act 192.  The measure was declared unconstitutional by Commonwealth Court in June 2015. The June 20 State Supreme Court Ruling upheld that decision.

“Act 192 was passed by the General Assembly without any public notice or debate, and would have flooded the courts with ‘advocacy’ litigation, even when the plaintiffs had no real legal stake in the case,” said Philadelphia City Solicitor Sozi Tulante.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski told WFMZ-TV he would immediately reintroduce gun control ordinances that were repealed after Act 192 was passed in 2014.

“I believe in the Second Amendment, but at the same time we need to have common sense reasonable approaches to this whole issue of guns and where we carry guns,” Pawlowski said.

The Allentown package includes a ban on carrying guns in city buildings and parks and an ordinance that would force gun owners to report a lost or stolen gun within 48 hours.

“I think it’s a great step forward,” Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said.

Like Pawlowski, Panto said he expected to reintroduce stricter gun control ordinances in July.

One person expressed his support for local gun control that would be stricter than state law by writing in the comments section of the WFMZ website: “Good. Guns in these places aren’t needed.”

But another wrote, ”Easton has a law. Palmer has a slightly different law. Beth, another, Allentown another! How is any responsible gun owner to know all the different laws?”

That is exactly what the NRA is afraid of. Allowing each town council in every nook and cranny of Pennsylvania the opportunity to ignore state law would result in a hodgepodge of regulatory spaghetti that could turn an unsuspecting gun owner into a criminal.

“A myriad of local firearm laws makes compliance very difficult and nearly impossible for responsible gun owners. This creates a situation where gun owners and sportsmen have difficulty even knowing about certain laws, much less understanding them,” the NRA-ILA said in a press release.

And that is why Pennsylvania Sen. Rich Alloway (R) reintroduced legislation to take the place of Act 192 the day after the Supreme Court decision.

As the Republican laid out his reason for introducing Senate Bill 1330, Alloway pointed to the story of a drugstore employee carrying a concealed weapon who was able to stop a robbery in Waynesboro, Pa.

The legislation states that “no county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”

“I recognize that addressing the problems associated with these restrictive and illegal municipal ordinances will not solve the issue of gun violence,” Alloway said in a press release. “However, we absolutely do not need more laws that only serve to ensure criminals are better armed than the citizens they seek to victimize.”