New Pennsylvania Firearms Law is a Harsh Mistress

In The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, writer Robert A. Heinlein famously suggested that a legislature should have an entire chamber of members whose sole task was to repeal laws. By inserting a group of politicians whose only power and function was to erase statutes, he reasoned, the jealous and self-interested members of that body would serve as one more check against overreaching on the part of the other chambers of the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive . . .

I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent — the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority… while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it? (emphasis added)

Improbably, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania–which, out of all fifty states plus assorted districts and unincorporated territories, does not exactly rank first as a shining bastion of freedom in America–appears to have stumbled into partially making one of Heinlein’s ideals a reality. Many Pennsylvania municipalities are now reading their existing ordinances very carefully and scrambling to repeal laws pre-empted by the state’s Uniform Firearms Act.

In December, Pennsylvania enacted a law providing standing to anyone who wishes to challenge existing county or municipal firearms ordinances that violate Pennsylvania’s pre-emption law. The law also empowers Pennsylvania courts to award “reasonable expenses” (which is defined as including “attorney fees, expert witness fees, court costs and compensation for loss of income”) for people who bring a successful suit against a local government entity that has passed laws. In other words: not only will the municipalities find their illegal, unenforceable ordinances struck down, but they’ll be on the hook to compensate the aggrieved party(ies) for their time and attorneys fees in bringing the legal action in the first place.

This week, the city of Allentown unanimously repealed the city’s lost and stolen gun registry, as well as a ban on weapons in parks, and city property. The city of Bethlehem followed suit yesterday, repealing an ordinance that apparently mandated a $2.00 fee for gun permits issued by the city.

The Bethlehem ordinance is an example of an outdated statute; licenses to carry firearms have been issued by county sheriffs for a good many years now. But some municipalities dominated by city councils biased against ordinary civil rights have recently been passing illegal and unenforceable lost and stolen gun ordinances for political purposes. Pittsburgh, which passed a lost/stolen ordinance in 2008, is a good example; one of its supporters even admitted her disdain for the rule of law while the measure was being debated:

“Who really cares about it being unconstitutional?” said Councilwoman Tonya Payne, a supporter [of Pittsburgh’s lost/stolen firearms ordinance]. “This is what’s right to do, and if this means that we have to go out and have a court battle, then that’s fine…

Although the cities of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Lancaster have filed a suit complaining that the new law is unconstitutional because it was passed improperly (and causing informed observers to wonder if their attorneys managed to keep a straight face while drafting the complaint,) a lot of other municipalities are simply admitting defeat. According to the Associated Press, at least twenty-two municipalities have either repealed or have indicated that they plan to repeal their firearms laws.

It turns out that protecting our basic civil rights becomes a lot easier when politicians feel it in their pocketbook when they violate them.

Who knew?

comments

  1. avatar Don in PA says:

    “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is required reading!

    TANSTAAFL!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_a_Harsh_Mistress#The_Brass_Cannon

    -D

    1. avatar Noishkel says:

      Hell yeah man… one of my FAVORITE of Heinlein’s works.

    2. avatar ThomasR says:

      Along with “Starship Troopers”.

      The movie completely blew. It butchered the main premise of the book.

      1. avatar Chris. says:

        The people making the movie didn’t understand the book, at all.

        1. avatar DickDanger says:

          I read the book and didn’t understand the meaning…

        2. avatar Bobiojimbo says:

          DickDanger: The premise could be boiled down to: war is bad. The whole war between the humans, skinnies, and arachnids could have been avoided, but for a lack of communication.

          Chris: Welcome to Hollywood, baby.

        3. avatar Stinkeye says:

          “The people making the movie didn’t understand read the book, at all.

          Fixed it for ya, buddy.

    3. avatar MIKE CROGNALE says:

      Not bragging here. I have ben a sci-fi fan since I was about 10 I have every book Heinlein ever wrote in my library.

      1. avatar Don says:

        Heinlein is a favorite of mine too.

        If you haven’t already check out this contemporary sci-fi author John Scalzi. He’s got some elements of “starship troopers” and “the moon is a harsh mistress” Heinlein, and his Old Man’s War series is damned interesting.

        -D

        1. avatar MIKE CROGNALE says:

          Thanks Don. I’ll check him out. I used to have the entire collection of Andre Norton’s works but the box was on the floor of a downstairs closet and it was flooded by a water break. Lost them all.

  2. avatar GuyFromV says:

    A harsh mistress can be a real bitch.

    1. avatar pyratemime says:

      That normally costs extra though.

    2. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      So that explains Shannon stealing her 2nd hubby from his first wife! Well I”ll be. . .

  3. avatar Sammy says:

    If you think the moon’s a bitch try an ex-wife.

  4. Not out of the politicians pockets, the money would come from taxpayers.

    But yes, Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a great book.

    1. avatar ROSCOE says:

      “… the money would come from taxpayers.”

      Yep; which is why Councilwoman Tonya Payne in her statement is so willing to go out and “have a court battle”.

      Plus she can reap the free notoriety of running her mouth about it with her no doubt heavily Democrat constituency.

  5. avatar ROSCOE says:

    “It turns out that protecting our basic civil rights becomes a lot easier when politicians feel it in their pocketbook when they violate them.”

    This summary statement also pertains to why, without daddy war bucks billionaires like Herr Bloomberg, the antis’ would be up shits creek.

    None of the every day hysterical big mouthed anti-gun grabbers are willing to put skin in the game when it comes to anteing up hard cash to support the cause. All bark, no bite.

    Like most big mouthed extremist progressives they want their way, and want someone else to pay for it, too – such as taxpayers, or some influence peddling bazillionaire.

    Perfect example of the progressive entitlement mindset at work.

  6. avatar Gwen Patton says:

    I read that book years ago, and have reread it often. I have the audiobook edition as well, and highly recommend it.

    http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Moon-Is-a-Harsh-Mistress-Audiobook/B002VA35NG

    1. avatar Lettie says:

      Woot, I will ceialrnty put this to good use!

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  7. avatar Publius S says:

    Now we POTG push for Congress to do the same at the Federal level.

    GOP are you paying attention?

  8. avatar william johnson says:

    Texas has one. https://www.sunset.texas.gov/

  9. avatar preston says:

    wow fantastic news!

  10. avatar SteveInCO says:

    I’d like to extend this further.

    Many suits alleging that a law is a violation of the constitution are thrown out not on their merits but because of an (alleged) lack of standing on the part of the plaintiff. I think that anyone living in the jursdiction should be presumed to have standing whether or not they’ve been arrested, or suffered harm, or what-have-you. Visitors, maybe should have a higher bar, but not much higher.

    Constitutional violations hurt everyone.

  11. avatar sonnyroofy says:

    “does not exactly rank first as a shining bastion of freedom in America”

    Yeah we have a PoS attorney general & some thugs with badges in Philly but other than that PA is pretty ideal… am I missing something?

    1. avatar ValleyForge77 says:

      + 1

      I’m feeling pretty free here at the moment.

    2. avatar Brian says:

      I too am at a loss here.
      I’m super thankfull to be in PA.
      Take a trip through almost all our surrounding states, then you’ll do what I do and kiss the ground when you get back!

    3. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Pennsylvania is ranked 31st in the Guns&Ammo 2014 listing of “best states for gun owners.” Among the factors mentioned on the G&A web site:
      “Though Pennsylvania has a state firearm preemption statute, 50 municipalities have enacted various gun control ordinances. The transfer or sale of a handgun, even among private parties, must pass through a dealer and requires a background check… The carrying of firearms can be restricted during an emergency, and the City of Philadelphia is known as being unfriendly to citizens carrying firearms.”
      http://www.gunsandammo.com/network-topics/culture-politics-network/best-states-for-gun-owners-2014/

      On the plus side, G&A ranked Pennsylvania 15th on its “Best States for Concealed Carry” list for 2014.

      1. avatar ValleyForge77 says:

        Agree, there are some anomalies.

        Philly sucks. Stay away. But the recent pre-emption law confirmation is starting to change that.

        Can’t carry a loaded rifle in your car (ie – no ‘Truck gun’ in PA). But, if you SBR, it’s not a rifle anymore (just have to have your Carry License)

        And our knife laws are wacky too…

        But all in all, I frigging love PA. Like Brian says above, spend a few minutes in NJ, NY, MD, or DE – and man, you are happy to get back to the Free state of PA.

        1. avatar Stinkeye says:

          How is an SBR not a rifle? Isn’t that what the “R” stands for?

        2. avatar twency says:

          State law prohibits carrying in vehicles loaded guns which are longer than a certain length. SBRs are too short to fall under the prohibition.

        3. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Twency, surely you mean “some” SBRs are too short, I’m thinking of some M16s I played with in the ’70s with 14.5″ barrels,, that’s short enough to be NFA, but surely PA law isn’t that precise!?

    4. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

      Well…Philly counts! As does Pittsburgh (where I actually live), home of the aforementioned council person….

      Plus, there’s the liquor control board, representing the cutting edge of 1930s economic theory….

      But I agree. PA isn’t the worst.

      1. avatar Model66 says:

        Come to PMSC sometime, if you’re not already a member.

    5. avatar FoRealz? says:

      Don’t judge PA by Philly and Pittsburgh (and Pittsburgh is really pretty chill).

      The rest of the state where the millions and millions of people live is pro freedom.

      Heck they even have better (as in less onerous) gun laws than the allegedly pro gun and oft cited Texas. Of course I consider the ultimate litmus test Constitutional carry. One day in all 50 states. 🙂

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        You can call them better, but TX does not have UBC or accompanying registration, sounds like PA does! In which case, all of PA gunowners could be easily identified criminals in about one day, waiting for the knock on the door. I wouldn’t call that “good”.

  12. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    Some city satraps may be willing to fight to infringe their constituents’ freedom to the last dime of said constituents’ tax money. Most, I’d expect, would soon find that tenacious defense of the indefensible is a costly endeavor that drains coffers and crowds out other legitimate intiatives. Career self-preservation illegal ordinance abandonment should be the logical outcomes of applying this kind of pressure.

    It’d be nice if they’d just do this on their own and even expand freedom along the way, but this works, too.

  13. avatar Custodian says:

    Heinlein was a genius and visionary.

    All cities, counties, states, and the federal government should have bodies to solely repeal laws. Especially unconstitutional laws and costly laws.

    And there should be repercussions for the state and it’s agents when they lose.

  14. avatar Alan Brooks says:

    Upvote for the reference to my favorite author and some states already have legislative bodies whose sole job is to find laws to repeal.

  15. avatar John in Ohio says:

    Ohio has a state level preemption on firearm laws and it has worked out very well for us. The progressive northern part of our state gave us the most legal grief but they lost in the end. Some of the problems with our preemption law is that there isn’t a blanket standing and there isn’t a defined amount for damages to give the law some teeth when we successfully challenge. When a local government entity doesn’t heed our written warnings that it is in violation of R.C. 9.68, some brave soul or souls, by accident or intention, place themselves in harm’s way of arrest and charge by ignoring the invalid local ordinance, regulation, or rule. It would be nice if we could challenge without that last hazardous step. Some cities, *cough* Cincinnati *cough*, still drag their heels and keep law on their books which are in violation. However, they claim that such laws will no longer be enforced by the city. Of course, that doesn’t help the poor victim tazed or shot by an officer who didn’t get the memo.

    Any state that doesn’t have some state level preemption would be wise to consider pushing legislation for it.

  16. avatar LarryinTX says:

    WTF is a “Lost and stolen gun registry” supposed to be that is so important?

  17. avatar Latesha says:

    Play intofmarive for me, Mr. internet writer.

  18. avatar http://www./ says:

    Yo, that’s what’s up truthfully.

  19. Hi Jade,If the AP article is an accurate article and not a remake of some sort then yes, I would say it is great evidence, however, I have been unable to verify the actual story with the source – and not from lack of trying.

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