DA Warns Pittsburgh City Council That They Can't Make Gun Laws

Pennsylvania has a preemption law on the books. That means individual communities can’t pass gun control laws. As a result, the state has a unified framework of gun regulations so that those traveling within it know them wherever they go.


It keeps people from being arrested for complying with the rules in 99 percent of the state, but crossing the wrong line somewhere and now suddenly being criminals.

That hasn’t stopped the Pittsburgh City Council from wanting to pass gun laws in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, though.

Now, even the district attorney is warning the council that it can’t pass these laws.

Allegheny County’s top law enforcer is advising the City of Pittsburgh to put a halt to its gun-control efforts, but some city council members are not backing down.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. issued a letter Jan. 9 to Councilman Corey O’Connor stating that city council does not have the authority to pass proposed gun legislation. Mr. Zappala’s office publicly shared the letter Tuesday on social media.

“As the District Attorney of Allegheny County for the past 20 years, I understand the efforts to curtail gun violence and limit the accessibility to assault weapons, ammunition, and gun accessories capable of causing widespread injury, destruction, and death,” Mr. Zappala wrote. “I am also aware of the city’s effort previously under Mayor [Luke] Ravenstahl which was decided against the city in 2010. While I certainly see the desire for such type of legislation at the state and federal levels, I believe that city council does not have the authority to pass such legislation.

“I am also certain that you realize that if such legislation passes, there is sure to be a resident of Allegheny County who seeks to file a private criminal complaint alleging a violation of §6120,” the letter reads, referring to the state statute that prohibits municipal regulation of firearms.

Mr. Zappala wrote that he is not aware of the opinion of the city’s Law Department, but that he is sure that the department has found the bills “to be unconstitutional.”

“The city is not sharing its legal strategies on these bills with anyone outside city government, and that includes the Allegheny County District Attorney,” said Timothy McNulty, Mayor Bill Peduto’s spokesman.


Zappala is right, of course. The moment this passes, someone is going to file a lawsuit. I fully suspect a number of residents of the city have already spoken with various gun rights groups and are preparing their legal strategies right now.

I won’t be surprised if the lawsuits are already written.

The fact that Peduto and company are pushing forward despite the law, though, is telling.

It’s almost like they recognize that laws don’t stop people from doing things in the first place, kind of like how this proposal won’t do anything except stop people who are inclined to follow the rules. You know, people not like Peduto and company. He and his cohorts are pushing through despite state law and are going to do whatever they want.

Kind of like how criminals will still get guns and still do evil things, regardless of whatever laws Peduto tries to push through.

Another similarity is that the courts aren’t likely to look kindly on the decision to ignore the law.

It’s only too bad that Peduto and his fellow travelers won’t end up in prison over their lawbreaking ways.

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