Philly Opts To Enforce Gun Law That's Been On Books For 11 Years

While Pittsburgh has been slapped around by the courts for overstepping its authority in passing a gun control bill, one would think other cities in Pennsylvania considering gun control would at least wait until the Pittsburgh matter is settled.

Philadelphia, however, has decided differently.

You see, Philly is in a slightly different boat. Their ordinance has been on the books for more than a decade. They just haven’t enforced it. Now, though, it seems they’ve changed their minds.

Philadelphia officials Monday made their first attempt to enforce a 2008 law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons within 24 hours.

The city filed a civil suit against Rashad Armstrong, a Philadelphia man who, the suit contends, knew in April 2018 that his gun had been lost or stolen but didn’t report it.

The gun was found, along with drugs, on a Lancaster man during a traffic stop by Lancaster police a month later. The suit says Philadelphia police questioned Armstrong about the gun — a Ruger semi-automatic — in June of that year and he told them it had been taken without his permission.

Armstrong is the first person the city has pursued under the law first passed in 2008.

Of course, that’s also why the law hasn’t been overturned.

You see, lawsuits regarding laws require a plaintiff to have standing. Without the law being enforced, it’s unlikely that anyone had any standing with which to challenge the law. It was just words on a page, after all. Without enforcement, that’s all any law really is.

But now that it’s being enforced, Armstrong has the standing to file a lawsuit against the city and challenge the law under the state’s preemption clause. There, it’s unlikely that Philadelphia will prevail. We’ve already seen Pittsburgh get crushed in court, and while they’re appealing the ruling, it’s unlikely that they’ll ultimately prevail.

More than likely, they hope that people like Armstrong will feel too cowed to fight back. They may well suspect that victims will be too defensive about what happened to go on the offense and attack the city’s law instead.

It’s important to remember that Philadelphia is attacking the victim of a crime here. Armstrong’s gun was stolen, for crying out loud. He’s the victim.

Now, Philly is trying to victimize him yet again.

Imagine if they treated other crime victims this way. Can you possibly fathom the city of Philadelphia going after a rape victim for failing to report the rape? After all, a case could be made that if she had, the rapist wouldn’t be free to rape again, right?

If you’re thinking that ridiculous, you’re right. Of course it is. The victim shouldn’t be punished if they opt not to report being the victim of a crime.

Armstrong is a crime victim here. The city isn’t alleging he provided the gun to someone unlawfully and is pretending it was stolen. They’re not contesting that the gun was stolen in the least. Instead, they’re punishing him for not having reported it. That’s it. That’s something we wouldn’t tolerate for any other crime.

Couple that with the fact the law is illegal anyway, and it’s a perfect storm of suck.