Pennsylvania is a preemption state. What that means is that it’s illegal to pass any kind of local gun control.
Now, technically, they can do so without an issue. It doesn’t become a real problem until they try to enforce that law. That has less to do with preemption and more to do with the subject of having standing, so it’s neither here nor there.
However, the governor of Pennsylvania isn’t a fan of preemption, and he recently vetoed a bill that would strengthen the law.
The legislation would have given a pathway to the courts for people adversely impacted by ordinances, rules or other actions by counties, townships, boroughs and cities that violate limits in state law.
The aggrieved parties would have been able to collect damages and to seek a court injunction against the laws.
Wolf’s veto message called the legislation an attack on local governments seeking to address gun violence and said it displayed indifference to the safety of state residents.
Except preemption has been on the books for years and Pennsylvania isn’t appreciably less safe than any other state. Pennsylvania is the 11th safest state in the nation based on 2019 records.
If preemption is already the law, and preemption makes the state less safe, Wolf simply needs to tell us how it makes one of the safest states in the country less safe.
Yet I won’t hold my breath.
As for this law, it doesn’t create anything that’s not already law. What it would do is provide recourse for residents when their local governments violate the law. Wolf doesn’t like this bill because he wants local governments to do so. We know because he stood there with then-Mayor Bill Peduto as he announced his intention to violate the law.
No, what this bill sought to do is provide some teeth to the preemption law, some disincentive for lawmakers who want to ignore the existing preemption law.
You know, people like Gov. Tom Wolf.
Of course, no one is overly surprised by Wolf’s veto. We all expected it. That’s because we know who Wolf is and where he stands on issues like the law.
See, he talks a big game about making people safer, yet he’s the one openly standing against the law as written. He can’t have it both ways.
Preemption exists so the people of Pennsylvania won’t need to know the gun laws of every community they pass through. They just need to know the state laws on the books and they’re generally golden. It’s meant to keep law-abiding citizens from getting jammed up because they were on the wrong side of a line on a map.
Wolf doesn’t care about those people, though. He’d much rather push for local governments to enact failed policies that accomplish nothing except create new criminals.
Sorry, but that’s never going to sit right with me, and I suspect it won’t sit well with a lot of other Pennsylvanians.
I suspect we’ll find out during the next gubernatorial election cycle just how many it didn’t sit well with.