Judge Strikes Down Pittsburgh Gun Ordinances, Mayor Vows Appeal

Pittsburgh, PA mayor Bill Peduto wanted a fight over Pennsylvania’s firearm preemption laws, and he got one after signing several local gun control ordinances into effect. Several individuals and Second Amendment organizations sued Pittsburgh in multiple complaints for violating the state’s preemption law, and Tuesday afternoon a judge delivered a blow to Peduto and gun control activists by striking down the ordinances in a case brought by several Second Amendment groups along with three Pittsburgh residents.

Judge Joseph James agreed with attorneys for gun rights advocates that the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act trumps the city’s ability to pass such legislation at a local level.

“Stated simply, under the doctrine of field preemption, the UFA preempts any local regulation pertaining to the regulation of firearms,” James wrote. “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.”

Peduto signed a local version of a red flag firearms law, as well as ordinances that tried to prohibit the use of a semi-automatic rifle or a magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds. All of them were clearly in violation of the state’s preemption law, which leaves it up to the state legislature to set a uniform standard of laws across the state of Pennsylvania. Despite the judicial smackdown (you can read the judge’s order here), Mayor Peduto says he’s not done fighting yet.

Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Peduto, said the city would appeal the judge’s decision.

“The city and its outside legal counsel have always expected this would be a long legal fight, and will continue to fight for the right to take common sense steps to prevent future gun violence,” McNulty said. “We will appeal.”

That’s not unexpected either, frankly. The goal of gun control advocates has always been to get this case before the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court in hopes the justices there will strike down the state’s firearms preemption law, or at least carve out more space for cities to pass gun gun control laws more strict than those at the state level. Still, a win is a win, and the judge’s decision today bodes well for the court fights to come. Congratulations to attorney Joshua Prince and the other lawyers working on this case, as well as the Second Amendment groups Firearms Owners Against Crime, and the Firearms Policy Coalition, and the individual plaintiffs who are fighting the city’s overreach.

Tuesday’s decision marks the second time in recent days that the gun control crusade against firearms preemption laws has been dealt a defeat. Last week Montana’s State Supreme Court struck down a local background check ordinance because it violated the state’s firearms preemption law. Just like in Pittsburgh, Missoula city leaders passed their own gun control law in an attempt to scuttle Montana’s law prohibiting municipalities from putting their own gun control ordinances in place. Even with the adverse rulings by judges, however, the gun control groups aren’t going to drop the issue. The next step is to introduce legislation to repeal firearms preemption laws, and expect a number of states to consider bills that would do exactly that when sessions kick off in early 2020. In the meantime, today’s decision is a good reminder that, while gun control efforts may be stalled in Congress, gun control activists are still hard at work to turn your Second Amendment rights into privileges.