Pa. Senate clears firearms bill much like law struck down last year

    File image of gun rights advocates Stephen Korte

    File image of gun rights advocates Stephen Korte

    State lawmakers are considering a proposal to allow people or organizations to sue municipalities over its gun laws, in cases where gun laws are stricter than state statute. It applies to anyone regardless of whether they’ve been to the city, were cited under an ordinance, or even whether or not they own a firearm.

    And the municipality would have to cover legal costs, regardless of the outcome of the case.

    The Senate voted 30-19 this week to send the bill to the House, which has five more session days scheduled this year. The House Local Government Committee advanced companion legislation in September, but it hasn’t moved since then.

    Governor Tom Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan won’t promise a veto of either measure, but says the first-term Democrat opposes the legislation as is because he “does not believe the state should be taking away a municipality’s right to pass its own gun ordinance,” Sheridan wrote in an email. “He will make a final decision [when] the bill reaches his desk.”

    Supporters say laws need to be consistent statewide. They also note that last year’s court decision didn’t address uniformity or the substance of the law.

    Instead, the ruling hinged on how the old law was enacted; specifically, the legislature adding firearms provisions to a measure introduced 22 months prior to increase penalties for stealing recyclable metals such as copper.

    Democratic Senator Rob Teplitz, of Dauphin County, opposes the legislation.

    Teplitz says he thinks gun laws should be uniform statewide, but won’t support this one without changes, and he didn’t get enough support for amendments he’d want.

    Namely, exemptions for places like Harrisburg, which he represents, that already have firearms ordinances on the books or have been declared financially distressed by the state.

    Before the old law was invalidated, about 100 communities repealed their ordinances over concerns about lawsuits.  Five  (including Harrisburg) fought lawsuits from gun rights groups.

    State lawmakers are considering a proposal to give standing to sue municipalities with gun laws stricter than state statute to any organization or any person, regardless of whether they’ve been to the city, were cited under an ordinance, or even own a firearm.

    And the municipality would have to cover legal costs, regardless of the outcome of the case.

    The Senate voted 30-19 this week to send the bill to the House, which has five more session days scheduled this year. The House Local Government Committee advanced companion legislation in September, but it hasn’t moved since then.

    Supporters say they’re trying to re-establish rules in a law overturned last year by the state Supreme Court, but going about it differently.

    The court decision didn’t address the substance of the law. Instead, the ruling hinged on how it was enacted; specifically, the legislature adding firearms provisions to a measure introduced 22 months prior to increase penalties for stealing recyclable metals such as copper.

    Democratic Senator Rob Teplitz, of Dauphin County, is opposing the law.

    Teplitz says he thinks gun laws should be uniform statewide, but won’t support this one without changes and can’t get support for the amendments he’d want.

    Namely, exemptions for places like Harrisburg, which he represents, that already have firearms ordinances on the books or have been declared financially distressed by the state.

    Governor Tom Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan won’t promise a veto of either measure, but says the first-term Democrat opposes the legislation as is.

    “The governor opposes the bill and does not believe the state should be taking away a municipality’s right to pass its own gun ordinance,” Sheridan wrote in an email. “He will make a final decision [when] the bill reaches his desk.”

     

    Before the old law was invalidated, about 100 communities repealed their ordinances and five fought lawsuits from gun rights groups: Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lower Merion Township and Harrisburg.

     

     

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