May 05, 2020
By Mark Chesnut
The city of Pittsburgh’s more than two-year-long saga of trying to force unconstitutional gun-control laws on city residents has once again raised its ugly head.
Last week, the Pittsburgh city attorney filed a brief asking a state court to overturn a judge’s order striking down three firearms restrictions that run afoul of the state’s firearms preemption law. The restrictions include a so-called “assault weapons” ban, a ban on normal-capacity ammunition magazines often sold with many popular firearms and a “red flag” law that allows confiscations of firearms without due process.
The Pittsburgh city council and mayor knew at the time they passed the law that the approving such restrictions was overstepping their authority. Instead of listening to warnings, however, they charged forward with their scheme to gut the right of citizens to keep and bear arms.
All three of the laws directly contradict Pennsylvania’s firearms preemption law, which states, “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.”
There is a simple reason that Pennsylvania and more than 40 other states currently have firearms preemption laws on the books. Such laws are designed to stop municipalities from creating a patchwork of different laws that turn a law-abiding citizen into a criminal for simply crossing a jurisdictional line.
In October 2019, an Allegheny County judge struck down all three of the city laws because the city didn’t have the authority to pass such laws in the first place. The judge termed the laws, “void and unenforceable.”
At the time, pro-gun advocates saw the rebuke by the judge largely as a victory, with attorney Joshua Prince, who represented the Firearms Industry Consulting Group, telling Pittsburgh’s local CBS affiliate, “They knew that these ordinances were unlawful and they passed them anyway. Therefore, city council members are not some special class of citizens.”
In the latest briefs filed last week by the city, attorneys claim that neither lawmakers nor the state’s highest court had ever “expressly said or held that cities are completely powerless to act in this area.” In other words, it seems that they plan to try again, despite the fact that the state’s preemption law forbids cities from passing gun laws more restrictive than those of the state.
Prince, who continues to represent the plaintiffs in the case, said the city is wasting its money on a “frivolous appeal regarding its illegal ordinances.”
“The example that this sets for our youth—that it is acceptable to violate the law if you do not agree with it, instead of petitioning to have the law changed—is a stark reminder that the city and its elected officials believe they are above the law,” he told the Tribune-Review.
In the end, with the clarity of Pennsylvania’s preemption law, it’s likely that the city is simply throwing more taxpayer-provided money into a legal black hole. For gun owners in the city, it must be maddening to see their hard-earned tax dollars being used to fight against their own freedom.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.