A new era for gun laws
Changing the state’s preemption law would make it possible for Philadelphia leaders to pass several firearms policies that the state had previously blocked.
In the fall of 2022, following the fatal shooting of Mill Creek Recreation Center employee Tiffany Fletcher, Mayor Jim Kenney attempted to ban firearms at recreation facilities, playgrounds, and pools. Gun Owners of America immediately sued the city, and a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge ruled that Kenney could not enforce the ban.
Also that year, Commonwealth Court judges struck down a Philadelphia ordinance requiring residents to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours or face a fine. The judges argued the policy was illegal under state preemption law.
Attorney Joshua Prince represented the man who sued the city after being fined for not reporting a missing firearm. He doesn’t believe eliminating preemption will make a dent in the gun violence crisis.
“It’s disingenuous to say that the ability to regulate at a local level is going to dissuade these criminals from committing criminal acts,” he said. “This is all about dissuading law-abiding individuals from being able to use their second amendment rights.”
In 1993 Philadelphia City Council passed a bill banning assault-style weapons, but the Pa. Supreme Court struck it down. In 2008 a policy limiting handgun purchasing was struck down by the Commonwealth Court.
The City of Pittsburgh tried to pass its own law prohibiting assault weapons after the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, but an Allegheny County judge didn’t let it stand.
In seven states, local officials who try to pass their own gun laws can face a fine. In Kentucky, a local official can face criminal penalties and in Arizona, they can be removed from office, according to the Giffords Law Center.
Pennsylvania Senators tried to strengthen preemption laws in 2022 with House Bill 979, which would have punished municipalities for attempting to pass stricter gun laws locally.
Then-governor Tom Wolf vetoed the bill, calling it “an attack on local governments who take action to find common sense solutions to gun violence.”
Stanley Crawford, a plaintiff in Philly’s preemption lawsuit whose son was murdered in 2018, said it’s not fair for the state to make all of the gun regulations when they’re not experiencing violence on a daily basis.
The Pa. Supreme Court will hear the arguments Wednesday at 9 a.m.