Judge blocks Harrisburg gun laws as three cities take aim at new Pa. law

     (AP file photo)

    (AP file photo)

    A judge has temporarily loosened some of Harrisburg’s gun laws following a lawsuit brought by a gun rights organization.

    A similar legal clash is occuring in Philadelphia’s courts, and advocates for more gun protections say there may be a hopeful sign in the judge’s ruling.

    The Harrisburg judge found that three of five gun regulations the suit attacked should not be enforced while the lawsuit is pending, saying the protections go farther than state law. In legal language, the judge’s temporary lifting is called a preliminary injunction.

    The preliminary injunction is the latest ruling to spring from a new Pennsylvania law known as Act 192. The NRA-backed measure allows gun owners to sue cities to relax gun restrictions without having to prove that any harm was caused.

    Before the law, Pennsylvania courts would throw out suits that sought to roll back gun restrictions because plaintiffs lacked standing. But Act 192 gets rid of the requirement that a person needs to be aggrieved by a law in order to have a legitimate case.

    The Dauphin County judge refused to strike down one Harrisburg law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.

    That same requirement is among a series of gun regulations being challenged in Philadelphia.

    Shira Goodman of CeaseFire PA, which is fighting to keep the regulations, said the regulation helps police keep track of guns that could be used in crimes.

    “If a gun was stolen, and it’s not at a crime scene, they’re not going back to knock on your door and say, ‘Where’s your gun?’ because they know,” Goodman said. “But they also know that if they keep finding guns that were lost from you, maybe they’re going to find someone who is using their clean record to traffic guns.”

    Goodman said the lost or stolen reporting rule is among the city’s most important gun protections since it helps root out “straw buyers,” or those who buy guns legally and hand them over to criminals.

    A hearing in the case — in which Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are seeking to scrap Act 192 — is scheduled for April.

    The cities are leveling a procedural attack. Since Act 192 was tucked into another bill establishing penalties for scrap metal theft, the cities are arguing that it runs afoul of a state law saying a bill must pertain to a single topic.

    “It’s a law school exam, but in real life,” Goodman said. 

    An NRA spokesman did not immediately return a interview request. 

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.