The city of Pittsburgh has joined the city of Philadelphia along with several individual defendants in a lawsuit alleging that the state’s preemption law keeps local governments from addressing “gun violence” that “disproportionately ravages communities of color.”
The suit, first launched by Philadelphia in October of 2020, wants the court to strike down a state law that prohibits local governments from enacting their own gun control regimes.
In April 2019, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto signed a package of gun control laws, including a ban on the “use” of AR-15s, magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, and all “armor-piercing” ammunition.
A court struck down the ban later that year, ruling only the state can change gun laws, as per state law 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6120:
No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.
Pittsburgh’s suit implies that this preemption law is racist because “gun violence disproportionately ravages communities of color to a shocking degree.” The suit begins by pointing out that “gun violence is taking an enormous toll in Pennsylvania’s low-income communities of color,” and goes on to say that “stories of young Pennsylvanians of color being gunned down fill the news.”
The suit accuses the state government of “handcuffing” local governments from “enacting or enforcing policies that will save lives.”
The suit lists permit-to-purchase requirements, one-gun-per-month limits, and extreme risk protection orders as examples of policies that local governments in Pennsylvania would enact. The suit also speaks favorably of “assault weapon” bans, magazine capacity restrictions, and “gun-free zone” requirements.
Local officials have also blamed the state government’s preemption law for the rise in violent crime within their jurisdictions.
“Respondents have allowed and continue to allow gun deaths and injuries to persist at appalling rates in vulnerable Black and Hispanic communities in our Commonwealth, and as a result, Petitioners have lost the lives of their children, family members, and residents,” the lawsuit states. “Respondents are deliberately tying the hands of local governments, and people in the most affected communities will continue to lose life and limb so long as the barriers created by the Firearm Preemption Laws remain in place.”
While Philadelphia has seen a sharp rise in homicide rates over the last 12 months, Pittsburgh’s violent crime rates actually dropped between 2019 and 2020, despite not having the mayor’s restrictive gun control laws in place.