Preemption means that local communities cannot create their own gun control laws. There are a number of preemption laws on the books in various states, one of which is Pennsylvania. These measures exist for a number of reasons, but mostly to keep confusion to a minimum as people travel throughout the state. After all, on a long trip, it’s far easier to check state laws than the ordinances for every city you might travel through.
Following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the city decided preemption didn’t really apply to them. They knew the law and decided to ignore it. Their own comments say they knew what they were doing, but did it anyway.
Unsurprisingly, their new law was challenged. Well, they lost, but now the city is appealing the decision.
Pittsburgh city attorneys have filed a motion to appeal a judge’s order striking down three gun control ordinances passed following a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018.
The Associated Press reported Monday that court documents, filed last week, argue that state law does not expressly say that cities do not have the authority to pass their own gun control ordinances. A judge found in October that state law took precedence over local law and struck down the three ordinances, which would have banned some high-capacity magazines, armor-piercing rounds, and assault weapons.
Neither courts nor lawmakers, the city’s attorneys reportedly wrote, “expressly said or held that cities are completely powerless to act in this area.”
A city’s ability to legislate gun control policy “may be limited, but it is not extinguished,” they continued, according to the AP.
That’s an interesting take.
Is the city right, though? Does the law fail to say cities are completely powerless on this?
Oh, no. It says it quite explicitly, actually.
§ 6120. Limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition.
(a) General rule.–No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, but that clearly says the Pittsburg can’t ban assault weapons.
Sure, they can regulate the use of weapons–for example, they can ban discharging a weapon within the city limits–but not the ownership, sale, or much of anything else. That looks pretty damn clear to me.
Regardless, the city is appealing the ruling, thus wasting more taxpayer dollars on a lost cause.
They won’t win this one. Not if the ruling is based on the law itself, anyway. The only way they win is if judges ignore the plain text of the law and instead tries to win brownie points with the anti-gunners that have inundated the state.
Unfortunately, we can’t rule out that happening by any stretch. Instead, we can only hope that the courts follow the law and not public opinion moving forward. If that happens, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will need to explain to his constituents why he spent millions in taxpayer money to tilt and windmills.