Philadelphia Ghost Gun Case Remanded To State Court

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

The city of Philadelphia doesn’t like so-called ghost guns. In fairness to them, a lot of local and state governments don’t like homebuilt firearms that they can’t trace or track. In the case of state governments, they can do something about them. In fact, some city governments can too.

But Philadelphia thinks they can do so, and that creates a bit of an issue.

It’s an issue that spurred a lawsuit to block the measure. And yesterday, I got a press release from Gun Owners of America sharing the latest news on that lawsuit.

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a smack down to the City of Philadelphia, which in June had frivolously removed, to federal court, the Gun Owners of America’s (GOA) lawsuit challenging the City’s ban on 80% receivers.

“We are happy that GOA’s case against the City of Philadelphia will now be able to proceed in state court, where it belongs,” said Erich Pratt, GOA’s Senior Vice President. “Pennsylvania state law and legal precedent are clear on protecting Second Amendment rights and homemade firearms, and we anticipate another favorable outcome for law-abiding gun owners at the state level.”

In January, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an ordinance banning the manufacture of 80% and 3D printed firearms, and criminalizing purchase, sale, or transfer of such unfinished frames or receivers. There’s just one problem — Pennsylvania state law explicitly preempts localities from regulating “the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms.”

In May, GOA and Gun Owners Foundation (GOF), together with several Philly residents, brought suit in state court challenging the City’s ordinance, alleging violations of both the state’s preemption statute and the Pennsylvania constitutional right to keep and bear arms. However, rather than defend its ordinance, Philadelphia sneakily removed GOA’s case to federal court, in an obvious delay tactic to avoid having state courts decide the case.

As GOA’s Pennsylvania Director, Val Finnell noted, “over the years, Philadelphia has tried numerous times to infringe the right to keep and bear arms, but its actions have been repeatedly struck down by Pennsylvania courts. This time, Philly unsuccessfully tried to enlist the federal courts, in the hopes of avoiding a similar fate.”

In response to Philly’s removal action, GOA swiftly filed a motion to remand, explaining the baseless nature of the City’s removal: “Philadelphia seeks to avoid having a state court rule on what are quintessentially state constitutional and statutory issues. This Court should reject Philadelphia’s naked attempts to derail Plaintiffs’ ability to have their day in court.”

Last week, the federal judge assigned to the case agreed with GOA, “conclud[ing] that there is no federal question presented in the complaint nor any other basis for exercising federal jurisdiction.” The case will now proceed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

GOA Pennsylvania Director Val Finnell, or another GOA/GOF spokesperson, is available for interviews. Gun Owners of America, and its sister organization Gun Owners Foundation, are nonprofits dedicated to protecting the right to keep and bear arms without compromise. For more information, visit GOA’s Press Center.

As noted above, Pennsylvania is a preemption state, meaning Philadelphia can’t create its own laws. They likely hoped the federal court wouldn’t address that issue and just deal with the issue of whether “ghost guns” are somehow different from other firearms protected by the Second Amendment.

I’m not sure that would have worked out for them either, of course, but that’s what I suspect the thinking was. Assuming there was actually thinking taking place, that is.

Now, with it in state court, they have to run slam into preemption at the state level. State courts in Pennsylvania have supported preemption time and time again, so while this is really just a ruling to remand it to state court, the federal judge basically passed a death sentence on the lawsuit.

Which, of course, is perfectly fine. It needs that sentence.

Now, the city will have to content themselves with wasting taxpayer money–money that might be better spent addressing the actual crime that’s bringing Philadelphia to its knees–on a lawsuit that had less of a chance than a bottle of wine in Nancy Pelosi’s fridge (allegedly).

In a way, though, I almost wish the case had stayed in federal court.

Sooner or later, one of these “ghost gun” bans is going to have to end up before the Supreme Court so this ridiculousness can die the horrible, painful death it deserves. Of course, there’s no reason it had to be this case since there will be plenty of other opportunities. In fact, for the people of Philadelphia, what’s happening is probably for the best since the ban will be overturned much faster than waiting for the Supreme Court to handle it.

So, a big win for the Second Amendment in Philadelphia.