Pennsylvania lawmakers seek to put teeth in preemption law

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Pennsylvanians are in a weird spot. They’re a fairly pro-gun state, despite having both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia inside their borders, with a pro-gun legislature. However, they have an anti-gun governor who is vehemently against things like preemption.

He wants local governments to be able to create an unnavigable patchwork of gun control laws that are bound to jam up good, decent folks who didn’t realize the local law was different than state law.

And, of course, the media is ready to carry water for him with headlines like this: “Pennsylvania lawmakers OK veto-bound bill aimed at killing local gun laws.”

Here’s the story itself.

Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Tuesday approved veto-destined legislation to help gun owners and gun-rights organizations collect damages in court from cities that passed firearms restrictions that were found to violate state law.

Despite the veto threat by Gov. Tom Wolf, the bill passed the Republican-controlled chamber, 32-17, with three Democrats joining every Republican in support of it. The bill passed the Republican-controlled House in June and goes to Wolf’s desk, the latest in a long-running disagreement with the Democrat over how to deal with gun violence.

Wolf’s favored legislation, meanwhile, has gotten little traction in the Legislature.

“As if it weren’t bad enough that the Republican-controlled General Assembly refuses to pass commonsense gun violence solutions, they insist on taking it a step further by working to loosen gun laws – like their attempt to allow unvetted gun owners carry concealed weapons through our streets last year – or now to discourage local jurisdictions from taking action on their own,” said Wolf.

​”I will veto House Bill 979. It’s yet another bill that fails to prioritize the safety of all Pennsylvanians.​”

It’s not until well after this that the story acknowledges that preemption is already the law and all this bill seeks to do is give the law some teeth.

Wolf vetoing the bill is hardly surprising. He stood with former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto when he vowed to violate one of the state laws Wolf is supposed to help enforce. Obviously, he doesn’t want to provide good, decent folks with the means to oppose such measures.

Meanwhile, he crows about “commonsense gun violence solutions” which are anything but common sense or solutions.

What he wants is to restrict people’s rights. That’s it.

For the media to try and pretend, even for a bit, that this law actually changes whether or not local governments can enact their own gun control laws is disingenuous to an extreme. I suppose I should give them some credit for even mentioning that preemption exists in the state eventually, but I’m not feeling all that charitable.

It’s only too bad that there’s not quite enough support for this measure to override the veto. That would be a thing of beauty, but alas, it’s not likely to happen.

However, what we can see is just how little Gov. Wolf cares about the rule of law. He’s more than willing to not just look the other way when cities violate state law, he’s offered explicit support for their lawlessness. Opposing a law that simply holds people accountable is incredibly on-brand for him.