Pennsylvania’s legislature is considering a bill (HB 2558) allowing the state’s gun owners to have standing to sue county and municipal governments that violate the Commonwealth’s firearms preemption law.
Some years ago, Pennsylvania’s legislature enacted a law preempting county and municipal governments from creating their own ordinances relating to firearms. In recent years, however, some city councils have engaged in cheap political theater by enacting such ordinances anyway, and then not refusing to enforce their laws, which means that no one can have standing in court to challenge the laws and get them struck down. The laws, however, remain on the books, and can actually have an impact in unanticipated ways — as Pittsburgh residents attempting to order ammunition online from Bass Pro Shops learned last year.
Pennsylvania enacted a strengthened preemption law in 2014 that was intended to give standing to gun owners to allow them to sue for injunctive relief against municipal ordinances, and to recover ‘reasonable expenses’ for their efforts (i.e., to cover attorney fees, court costs, and the like.) As I reported at the time, it worked pretty well, and municipalities across the state were scrambling to rid the books of these outdated and unconstitutional laws in anticipation of its enforcement.
Unfortunately, there was a flaw in the manner in which the bill had been enacted: it had started out in life as a bill to address the theft of scrap metal before it ‘evolved’ into a law on firearms preemption. Pennsylvania’s constitution, however, requires all bills to be about one single subject matter, and as a result, the law was struck down later in the year.
Back to square one, pro-gun rights members of Pennsylvania’s legislature are trying again. Unfortunately, the governor who signed the old law, Tom Corbett was unpopular (for reasons unrelated to firearms law,) and his successor, Democrat Tom Wolf, has been on record as opposing the strengthened preemption law. (It is uncertain whether the fact that Wolf was bankrolled by billionaire plutocrat Michael Bloomberg during his 2014 election campaign had anything to do with this position.) The legislature will need to vote for the bill with a veto-proof majority to ensure its passage.
If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, advising your legislature-critters of your position on the matter couldn’t hurt.