The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas issued a one-sentence order temporarily staying the lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association against the city of Pittsburgh which alleges that the City of Bridges’ ordinances regulating firearms violate Pennsylvania’s pre-emption law. The lawsuit was stayed while another suit filed by several Pennsylvania cities challenging the constitutionality of H.B.80, the statute that allows standing for persons who can legally possess a firearm (or for member organizations of which they are a part, like the NRA,) to proceed . . .
I’ll come right out and say that it probably makes some sense procedurally for the other lawsuit to be adjudicated first. If H.B. 80 is unconstitutional, then the NRA’s lawsuit is moot. The problem is that H.B. 80 started out in life as a bill addressing the theft of scrap metal. Due to a peculiar clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, any bills passed into law by the legislature must relate to a single subject:
No bill shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except a general appropriation bill or a bill codifying or compiling the law or a part thereof.
For the record, the title of H.B. 80 is:
An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in burglary and other criminal intrusion, further providing for the offense of criminal trespass; defining the offense of theft of secondary metal; prescribing penalties; and, in firearms and other dangerous articles, further providing for Pennsylvania State Police and for limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition.
If they manage to win on the ‘single subject’ rule, the anti-civil rights crowd will no doubt present this as a win for their side. Of course, it really wouldn’t be; the law at issue will still be in violation of Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act, it’s just that no one will be able to challenge it unless they’re actually arrested under one of the ordinances. Which they won’t be because, well, the city officials know that they’ll lose in court. And given that Pennsylvania’s new governor was endorsed by billionaire plutocrat Michael Bloomberg, I’m not optimistic that a revised law will be in the offing anytime soon if this one is struck down.
The pro gun-rights side, on the other hand, is hanging its hat on the idea that the single subject that the bill is about concerns ‘criminal penalties’. We will have to see whether or not the Pennsyvlania courts agree, or think it’s too much of a stretch. I did see a recent case from the Pennslyvania Supreme Court holding that several diverse items were not overly broad when they were under the auspices of “powers of county commissioners”. So there’s that, at least.