Pennsylvania has a preemption statute that prevents local governments from creating their own firearm laws. Such a patchwork of varying rules and regulations would effectively chill the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms in the sate. As the law reads, “(a)  General rule.–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.” The problem is that there are no teeth to the law, as no penalties are imposed on local governments that violate it . . .

Consequently, there are over fifty local scofflaw governments in in the keystone state. From nraila.org:

State firearms preemption was enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature to avoid the possibility of 2,639 separate firearm laws across the Commonwealth.  However, over recent years, nearly fifty local governments have enacted gun control ordinances in violation of the current state firearms preemption law.

House Bill 2011 has been introduced to remedy the situation. It’s the lastest version of similar bills that have been put forward over the last four years. Representative Mark Keller, (R-Landisburg) has sponsored the current measure. From publicopiniononline.com:

“Local governments have been passing ordinances regulating firearms in defiance of the state’s Crimes Code, resulting in confusion for gun owners who don’t know they are breaking the law,” Keller said. “The end result is that citizens can be forced to incur significant expenses to hire attorneys to challenge these illegal and unconstitutional ordinances. My bill would correct the problem.”

The bill moved from committee to the full House yesterday.

Florida had a similar problem and solved it with legislation that made local leaders personally accountable for violations, allowing for the recovery of legal costs. The Pennsylvania law lacks those teeth, though.

The new law avoids the loophole that was found in Ohio’s preemption law. In the Buckeye State, cities would wait until Second Amendment supporters spent time and legal resources trying to force an offending local government to repeal a law. Then, just as it became clear that the 2A supporters would win in court, the city would repeal the law, allowing the plaintiffs no opportunity to recover their costs. Under Pennsy’s HB 2011, if an offending law is repealed after a local government has been sued, the city would be responsible for paying plaintiffs’ legal fees. We’ll be watching the bill’s progress.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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33 Responses to PA Bill Would Hold 2A Scofflaw Local Governments to Account

  1. It is a good idea, though it would be unnecessary if the states understood that the Bill of Rights preempted them from making any laws in that regard as well.

    • Yeah. I don’t know why any pro-2A people even put up with all the jibber-jabber. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, full stop.

      Never argue with a fool, people might not be able to tell which is who.

  2. Amazing what happens when public who*es, I mean officials, have to spend their own $$ to deal with their BS.

    • Ah, yes. Alex Jones, that spouting fountain of bvllshit. I wouldn’t believe him if he said that the sun rises in the East.

    • Im willing to bet my last dollar that the legislature will not change one word of our laws here.
      Heck they are just about ready to add a legal warning shot and or allowing to display your weapon.
      Except I am about down to my last dollar……………..sigh.
      But still.
      Aint it greeeeeeeeeeeeat in the Sunshine State………

  3. PA is the last state in the Northeast with any 2A rights left. If a dem gets in and they have enough in the house it could be trouble.
    Philly, Pittsburgh and the 5 counties around Philly decide things in PA. The rest unfortunately is fly over country.

    • Pittsburgh is a very gun friendly town. We really only need to worry about Philadelphia, and they don’t have enough pull to get anywhere. They throw anti gun stuff at the house all the time and none of it ever gets anywhere. We’ve got them outnumbered, outmatched and DEFINITELY outgunned.

      • Pittsurgh’s CLEO has historically been anti-NFA items. Rumor has it that as of late, he’s been signing off on NFA paperwork. Guess we’ll find out how true that rumor is when I try getting a few suppressors in a month or so.

    • As a 10 year resident of PA who is moving back to his home state of Maine next month, I would really like to point out that PA is NOT part of New England. Neither is New York. However, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are most definitely part of New England and all 3 are pretty damn 2A friendly. In rankings of firearms friendly states, all 3 rank very highly. We don’t like being lumped in with the frikin marsians from conn and mass….

      As far as Philly running the rest of PA, while it does have a huge sway over things in politics here, the rest of the state is damned conservative and we have worked hard to keep the Philly pols at bay.

        • …and yet he was still over-inclusive. The NYC-to-Boston corridor is the right name for the anti-2A folks.

      • Interesting that Vermont is gun-friendly, as that is a pretty left-wing state, unless I have it confused with a different state.

        • Jeremy, Isn’t there blood in the streets and OK Corral style shootouts every day? There must be!

        • Vermonters know better than the tamper with the only thing that guarantees their freedom. Liberals elsewhere don’t seem to be interested in freedom at all.

    • there is a strong tradition of hunting and firearms in all but philly, we may have alot of gun laws but most are in our favor.took me 15 minutes to get my carry permit

      • I have no facts to back this up, but I was told once some years ago, that on opening day of deer season in Pennsylvania, the hunters in the field would equal the 5th largest army in the world. Firearms ownership is MUCH respected as a tradition and our rights are protected fairly well compared to some of our neighboring states (NY & NJ for instance). Philly tries just about every year to pass some sort of gun control and every year they get shot down.

  4. Texas has a preemption law like this, too, without penalties. However, Texas law does authorize the Texas Attorney General to seek an injunction against local scofflaws who violate the law. Currently, that would be Texas AG Greg Abbott, current candidate for Governor and staunch 2A supporter. You don’t want a piece of that man, if you’re a scofflaw local official, trust me.

    All of the bluster aside, you can always just, and this is a radical idea, talk to your local officials. I know, sometimes they ignore you, like in the CT state legislature hearings last year. Sometimes they play solitaire while you’re pleading for your rights. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a polite, but firm and informed, email to them addressing the problem and requesting resolution. It’s worked for me as recently as this month in getting the illegal no-guns signs pulled from our local public library. That’s Texas, though, and YMMV, but a successful outcome cannot be derailed by a respectful request for redress of grievances at the outset. Give it a chance before going into major protest mode.

  5. Pa is not part of New England. Well simple geography indicates that. But your lumped into the southern tier states like we in Pa are lumped into The peoples Republic Of NJ, NY and Maryland as the Mid Alantic States. Like it or not.

  6. Ok, help me out here – If I’m arrested under an illegal local gun control law, can’t I simply reference the state preemption law to ‘get out of jail’?

    • Not necessarily “simply”, but more like “eventually.” The thing is, a lot of cops don’t know much about the law, even basic law they should know. Part of it is they just don’t care, part of it is they don’t keep up with changes. So they may arrest you despite their being mistaken about the law. So you get a trip dowtown.

      Bottom line is you’ll spend a day in jail, pay for bail, and pay a lawyer to go tell the judge the sign was illegal and to move for dismissal of the case. You’ll have that arrest on your record, even if the case was dismissed, and have to tell the story whenever required, like on a job application or when applying for a concealed carry license.

      • Yes, this. It’s essentially a very hefty fine (along with the record and stigma) which is exactly the kind of abuse this is bill is designed to prevent.

        These local officials, just like any other criminals, must be punished for their crimes.

  7. In the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, the state legislature tried last year to give Oakland local authority for firearms laws, because of their particular problems. Governor Moonbeam vetoed it.

    Berzerkely asserts their Charter City status when creating local street designs, traffic control devices, and traffic movement laws. But plenty of other cities pass local firearms laws (e.g. confiscatory bans on ammo and magazines and firearms) without Charter City status, so I’m not sure why Oakland thought they needed the state to give them permission to infringe.

  8. I’ve been living in Philly for almost 20 years now. Took a few months to get approved for my Conceal Carry License. My friends that live in other counties got them within the week. I don’t get it?

    • I’ve gotten a handgun permit from NC, CC in PA and CC in AZ. NC was the worst, oddly, and it was just so that I could buy a handgun, forget CC. Someone I did know went through the process and it took him several months to get it, even as a soldier. Now in PA it took almost a month to receive the CC in the mail. AZ took about the same time. However, in AZ we can still CC without a physical permit, but I wanted a CC permit for reciprocity in other states. Don’t let me get started with NJ and handgun permits.

      • Not quite, in my opinion. Existing municipal bans remained in place and cities had a good chunk of time to add bans to get grandfathered. If I remember right, it was originally preemption, but the “pro” side gave it away. They did stick to their guns on keeping it a shall issue law, at least.

        It doesn’t affect me all that much, since I’m down in the St. Louis Metro East. I think only O’Fallon in the only place you may get in snagged.

        Actually, I don’t understand why they compromised at all. The court had already rejected the request for additional delay. It was – literally – “our” way or constitutional carry.

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