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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at the time, it worked pretty well, and municipalities across the state were scrambling to rid the books of these outdated and unconstitutional laws in anticipation of its enforcement.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.

[Hat tip: Sebastian, NRA-ILA.]

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  1. By all means, let’s call up our reps and state senator. Make a statement.

    But, realistically, a veto-proof majority in both houses is a tall order. Even if it did get signed, the Dem-dominated PA Supreme Court would invent a reason to nix it. They had the technicality (though a valid one) to cover them last time. But I doubt they’ll shy away from legislating from the bench if it comes to that. It’s the Progressive way. I wouldn’t want to be the test case for this Court on appealing conviction under one of the unlawful municipal regulations, either.

  2. Firearm Owners Against Crime / F.O.A.C. is a great resource , dedicated to Pennsylvania gun laws both current and pending. Like Philly , places like Allentown are becoming .. ” New Jersey Light ” .. as far as nanny state laws are concerned. ****** Pushback is sorely needed.

      • It is disturbing:

        “As important as the Sixth Circuit’s Tyler decision is, that is not the most newsworthy aspect of this case. Because now a federal appeals court has struck down an Act of Congress on constitutional grounds.

        That means the Obama administration’s solicitor general will now petition the U.S. Supreme Court to grant certiorari to review this case. Under these rare circumstances, it is virtually 100 percent certain that the justices will grant review and hear the case.

        That means that the Second Amendment will be back before the Supreme Court in 2017, after a ninth justice has been confirmed to replace Scalia. The Second Amendment has survived twice at the Supreme Court over the past decade, both by only 5-4 votes.

        One of the ways that the justices could rule in favor of the federal government would be to overrule Heller, and hold that the Second Amendment does not apply at all to private citizens.”

        TTAG legal eagles, what does this mean?

  3. “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.”

    Now that’s funny right there. I don’t care who you are.

  4. There is a huge irony in showing the “Liberty Bell” in any article having to do with Rights.

    If you want to actually get in to see the Liberty Bell,
    -It’s housed in a Federal building/structure, a complete and total NO GUNS zone.
    -You have to submit to a metal detector AND your belongings will be searched
    -They also, at random, ask permission to do a pat-down.

    So plenty of security, but not really any liberty

    So I declined all of that when visiting and stood outside, looking at the Liberty Bell at a distance through panes of glass, pondering the irony and implications of “Liberty” being just that close, and yet so very far away.

  5. Time to switch back to a Republican administration in PA. They keep alternating. The AG was convicted and sentencing is around the corner but she stepped on carry and gun rights before they removed her.

  6. “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”

    What? I can’t word this. Not sentence is. Seriously, what? They don’t not enforce the laws?

    • It’s badly worded in the article: Author Johannes Paulsen has committed a double-negative by saying, “not refusing to. . . .”

      If you read it this way, it makes more sense: “By refusing to enforce their laws, they create a grand total of zero convicts under those laws; and since there are no convicts, there are no people wrongly convicted under those laws, who could have had standing to sue against the violating counties and municipalities if only they had been so wrongly convicted.”

      • Yeah, that. I swear I read these before I submit, but if you already KNOW what you’re going to say, it’s easy for your mind to just magically fill in the blanks. I was going for “by refusing to enforce their own laws…” but it clearly got garbled between mind and keyboard.

  7. another major bill is coming next week The bill to finally permit semi autos for hunting in PA. Just gor a email. Support Senate bill 737. Call your state reps.

  8. I’m a member or the stupid party that is full of lawyers rhat pass bills tagged to a scrap metal bill that violates basic procedures. The basic incompetence of government is demonstrated regularly. You almost have to wonder if it was on purpose but I can’t see the reasoning of that…..of coarse rationality is not a trait of these knuckleheads.

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