Pa. court strikes down law lowering bar for gun rights groups lawsuits against cities

     Gun rights advocate Bruce Gold and others demonstrate on the steps of the state Capitol in 2014  Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo)

    Gun rights advocate Bruce Gold and others demonstrate on the steps of the state Capitol in 2014 Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo)

    An appeal is likely, says State Sen. Joseph Scarnati’s spokesman Drew Crompton.

    A seven-judge Commonwealth Court panel ruled Thursday Pennsylvania’s Act 192, a law that made it easier for firearms advocacy groups to sue municipalities over local gun ordinances, is unconstitutional.Act 192 was introduced as a bill that set penalties for stealing copper and aluminum. More than a year later, lawmakers added provisions scaling back the threshold at which firearms advocacy organizations would have grounds to contest local gun ordinances. It also put cities – and taxpayers – on the hook for legal expenses in cases decided in favor of the gun groups. Their 43-page decision “conclude(s) that Act 192 palpably and plainly violates the single-subject requirement set forth in … the Pennsylvania Constitution.” And its parent bill “did not retain its original purpose as it moved through the enactment process” – another constitutional requirement.

    Although it noted potential taxpayer burden from defending gun groups’ lawsuits, the cities’ lawsuit focused mainly on the departure of subject matter – which they argued violates the state constitution’s requirements that legislation stick to a single subject and its original purpose.

    Defendant state lawmakers contended the bill was okay because it amended only Pennsylvania’s crimes code.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    “We disagree with legislative respondents that the purported single unifying purpose of ‘amending the Crimes Code’ is sufficient to establish compliance,” Judge Robert Simpson wrote in the ruling.

    Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote an opinion dissenting in part and consenting in part.

    Lawmakers backing Act 192 include Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati, R-Cameron.

    After the NRA filed lawsuits challenging local gun laws in Lancaster, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and U.S. Law Shield in Harrisburg, the cities joined a group of Democratic state lawmakers in challenging Act 192.

    Those legislators include state Senators Daylin Leach, D-Delaware/Montgomery; Vince Hughes, D-Montgomery/Philadelphia; and Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia; and Representatives Cherelle Parker, D-Philadelphia, and Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny.



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

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal