A Pennsylvania judge ruled this week that Pittsburgh’s anti-gun laws are “void and unenforceable” because state preemption statues prohibit local governments from restricting firearm possession and use.
“Stated simply, under the doctrine of field preemption, the Uniform Firearms Act preempts any local regulation pertaining to the regulation of firearms,” Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James said in his opinion. Three anti-gun Pittsburgh ordinances are therefore “void and unenforceable due to field preemption by the Legislature.”
The Pittsburgh city council voted in April to pass three laws that restricted the “use” of semi-automatic rifles within city limits, banned magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds, and allowed courts to seize firearms under “extreme risk protection orders.”
Pennsylvania law prohibits municipalities from passing ordinances that contradict state regulations, but Pittsburgh city officials attempted to get around this prohibition by banning the “use” of semi-automatic rifles rather than the “possession.”
Judge James flatly rejected the city’s argument. He noted that the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that if the state legislature passes a law that obviously intends to regulate an entire “field,” local governments cannot pass any measures that restrict that field in any way. Because the state’s Uniform Firearms Act clearly intends to preempt all firearm-related laws, it doesn’t matter whether Pittsburgh’s ordinance regulates the “use” or “possession” of semi-automatic rifles.
“Despite the City’s efforts to avoid the specific preemption set forth in § 6120, they are not able to avoid the obvious intent of the Legislature to preempt this entire field. The UFA purports to regulate firearms and ammunition in the Commonwealth whether a person is using, brandishing, carrying or loading them,” James said.
Three individuals along with the Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, and Firearms Owners Against Crime filed the suit against the City, Mayor Bill Peduto, and the six city council members who voted for the ordinance.
“I am delighted that Judge James’ decision today appropriately struck down the City of Pittsburgh’s unlawful firearm ordinances and signage,” plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Prince said in a statement. “The City’s gun control sought to eviscerate the inviolate right of the residents of the Commonwealth to keep and bear arms and ensnare law-abiding citizens through a patchwork of laws. Today, Judge James made clear that Mayor Peduto and the Pittsburgh City Council are neither above the law nor a special class of citizens that may violate the law with impunity.”
The city plans to appeal the ruling, and Mayor Peduto noted on Twitter that the city is receiving free legal counsel to continue their fight.
“The city and its outside legal counsel have always expected this would be a long legal fight, and will continue to fight for the right to take common sense steps to prevent future gun violence,” Tim McNulty, a spokesperson for the mayor, told WTAE. “We will appeal.”
Legal counsel has been provided to the city of Pittsburgh pro bono (for free). https://t.co/ZuPX03ILrw— bill peduto (@billpeduto) October 30, 2019
At least some of that free legal counsel will come from Everytown Law, an offshoot of the Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety.