Adding Teeth To Pennsylvania Preemption Law Too Much For Some

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

When Pittsburgh decided to thumb its nose as the state’s preemption law, a lot of lawmakers were less than pleased. Why should they be happy? A city just hoisted a middle finger and decided to directly violate state law and there was absolutely nothing anyone could really do about it except, maybe, for the courts.


Now, lawmakers in the state are looking for ways to put some teeth into preemption.

It’s not surprising that some in the media are less than pleased with the idea.

Reminding us that some lawmakers are just fine with local control until they aren’t, the House Judiciary Committee is set to take up a bill on Tuesday that would force local taxpayers to pick up the check if someone successfully mounts a court challenge to a municipal gun ordinance that’s stronger than existing state law.

If the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Matthew D. Dowling, R-Fayette, sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In 2016, the state Supreme Court tossed an identical, National Rifle Association-backed law, passed under the administration of ex-GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, ruling that it was unconstitutional because it was sandwiched into a totally unrelated bill upping the penalties for stealing scrap metal, WHYY-FM in Philadelphia reported at the time.

Gun violence advocates hailed the high court’s ruling as a victory for common sense, arguing that it would have a chilling (and potentially bankrupting) effect on local municipalities’ efforts to combat an epidemic of gun violence that’s only gotten worse in the intervening years. In fact, small municipalities rolled back their gun ordinances rather than face costly litigation, WHYY-FM also reported.


Except that the violence has only really gotten worse in the last couple of years and is happening all over the country, including in every state that doesn’t have a preemption law.

Preemption isn’t the reason communities are seeing spikes in violent crime.

Some are decrying the bill, arguing that it will make local communities too fearful to pass local gun control. They’re not wrong, either, because that’s the freaking point.

Gun rights are rights for crying out loud. They shouldn’t be infringed by anyone, but especially local governments, and especially since all it really does is create a difficult-to-navigate patchwork of local gun laws that will land a lot of good people in hot water.

However, there’s really not much reason to get your hopes up or to get too worked up over the bill. It is going to get vetoed.

Governor Tom Wolf is rabidly anti-gun and won’t support this legislation. While Republicans do hold the majority in both chambers, they don’t have a veto-proof majority, though some rural Democrats may side with Republicans. I doubt it would be enough.


Yet in the process of talking about it, we can see just how poorly the anti-gun media members actually understand the arguments about guns. They fail to understand that we oppose gun control just as much as we’d oppose speech control and for the same reasons.

Especially since local gun control isn’t helping a city like New York, which has the toughest gun laws in the nation and is also seeing an epidemic of violent crime.


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