PA Town Feeling Heat Over Ignoring Preemption

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto really stepped in it when he and his city council passed their own assault weapon ban. The problem is that the measure comes in a state with preemption on the books. That means he can’t actually do that.


However, some times feel emboldened by Peduto’s actions, it seems, despite lacking the deep pockets of a city like Pittsburgh.

One town in particular thought they should pass their own gun control. They’re already feeling the heat.

The Polk Township supervisors received a letter Tuesday morning threatening legal action if they continue to pursue its proposed firearms ordinance.

The Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a civil rights defense firm in Bechtelsville, wrote on behalf of their client, the Firearm Owners Against Crime based in McMurray, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

The letter stated, “In the event Polk Township takes any further steps in enacting this proposal, FOAC is prepared to file private criminal complaints against each official involved in the proposing and enacting of the proposal and file suit against the Township, which will result in substantial additional burdens on the taxpayers. Clearly, it is in the best of interest of all of those involved that the proposal not be considered. Accordingly, I am respectfully requesting that no further action be taken in relation to the proposal or that it otherwise be removed from consideration. In the event the Township refuses to do so, please let me know whether you will accept service of the Complaint or require service by the Sheriff.”

Attorney Joshua Prince, the letter’s author, contends that passing the ordinance would be a first degree misdemeanor under Title 18 Crimes and Offenses of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.

In fairness to Polk Township, they’re not trying to ban assault weapons. Instead, the proposed regulation covers discharging a firearm. It’s one of those things that a lot of people would look at and think, “No big deal.”


And, in a lot of places, it probably wouldn’t be.

However, Polk Township is in Pennsylvania. Further, most of the items the measure is trying to regulate are already covered under state law. In other words, there’s even less reason than normal for a township to be trying to pass gun control.

So why?

That’s an excellent question, but from way on the outside, it looks like towns are emboldened by the actions of Pittsburgh and figure they can swamp the system if they pass gun control measures. They hope they can make it impossible for groups like Firearms Owners Against Crime to meet every challenge.

For that to happen, though, someone has to start. That means places like Polk Township.

Oh, it’s certainly possible that they just didn’t think this fell into the category of things covered by preemption. They may have just figured regulations on discharging a gun, even on your own property, is a whole other ball of wax entirely.

But at this point, I’m not feeling remotely charitable.

With luck, the letter is sufficient warning and they’ll back down on the proposal. If not, well, that’s what courtrooms were invented for.

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