For over three decades, Pennsylvania’s local governments have been barred from passing a patchwork quilt of local firearms regulations.The preemption statute had no provisions for penalties or enforcement. It was presumed that local governments would follow the law. That was a bad assumption.
Over 50 local governments have made a mockery of the rule of law, passing restrictive and illegal local firearm ordinances in Pennsylvania.
In 2014, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a firearms preemption enforcement law. Affected private individuals and organizations could sue local governments for damages. The law passed by large, veto-proof majorities. It was signed by Governor Corbett.
The law was opposed by the political class in large urban centers such as Philadelphia. In a bizarre turn, the Pennsylvania AG, Kathleen Kane, refused to enforce the law, and aided the cities in challenging the law in court.
In 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had violated the state constitutional requirement for “single issue” statutes. On April 19, 2017, a replacement bill passed the House Judiciary committee by a 20-5 vote.
The current bill, HB 671, is essentially the same as the legislation that was struck down. From state.pa.us:
§ 6120. Limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition.
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(a.2) Relief.–A person adversely affected by an ordinance, a resolution, regulation, rule, practice or any other action promulgated or enforced by a county, municipality or township prohibited under subsection (a) or 53 Pa.C.S. § 2962(g) (relating to limitation on municipal powers) may seek declaratory or injunctive relief and actual damages in an appropriate court.
The new enforcement law seems likely to pass again in 2017. The legislature will be careful to follow all the procedural requirements. Unfortunately, a Democrat, Tom Wolf is the Governor.
No doubt Governor Wolf will veto the reform bill. His voter base is in the urban centers. The urban center’s political establishments have shown a strong desire to continue to violate the preemption law.
Republicans hold large majorities in the PA House and Senate: 123 to 83 in the House, and 31-19 in the Senate. The only hope for passage: if enough “blue dog” Democrats cross the aisle to override a veto.