Judge strikes down Pittsburgh anti-gun laws

October 30, 2019

By

Matthew Hoy

Several months ago we told you of efforts by the city of Pittsburgh to enact strict gun control laws in defiance of Pennsylvania state laws that explicitly reserved the right to pass firearm-related legislation to the state legislature.

Within weeks, the Mayor Bill Peduto and city councilmembers were sued over the new laws.

Yesterday, the judge in the case, Joseph M. James, issued his ruling and slapped down the city government's efforts to enact more onerous gun control laws in Pittsburgh.

Despite the City's efforts to avoid the specific preemption set forth in § 6120, they are not able to avoid the obvious intent of the Legislature to preempt this entire field. The UFA purports to regulate firearms and ammunition in the Commonwealth whether a person is using, brandishing, carrying or loading them.

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Stated simply, under the doctrine of field preemption, the UFA preempts any local regulation pertaining to the regulation of firearms. The Uniform Firearms Act is a comprehensive statute that evidences an intent by the Legislature to preempt the entire field of firearms and ammunition across the state of Pennsylvania.

Attorneys for various gun rights groups praised the decision.

“I am delighted that Judge James’ decision today appropriately struck down the City of Pittsburgh’s unlawful firearm ordinances and signage,” said attorney Joshua Prince. “The City’s gun control sought to eviscerate the inviolate right of the residents of the Commonwealth to keep and bear arms and ensnare law-abiding citizens through a patchwork of laws. Today, Judge James made clear that Mayor Peduto and the Pittsburgh City Council are neither above the law nor a special class of citizens that may violate the law with impunity.”

While this likely the end of legal actions with regard to the ordinances passed by the Pittsburgh City Council, it may not be the end of legal action surrounding the case.

“We look forward to Judge James issuing a decision on Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League’s contempt petition against the City of Pittsburgh and District Attorney Zappala filing criminal charges against Mayor Peduto and the City Council Members who enacted these illegal ordinances,” Prince concluded.

Historically, it is rare that public officials are prosecuted for passing legislation, even when there are specific penalties in the law when such behavior violates a preexisting law. While fines and potential jail time for Mayor Peduto and his colleagues would certainly be instructive and act as a precautionary tale for other lawmakers who would put virtue-signalling above their duties to uphold the law, we are skeptical that this would actually happen.

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