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Pennsylvania Gun Owners Can Challenge Harrisburg Gun Ordinances

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that city gun control ordinances can be challenged in court, even by people who have not been charged with a violation. (Dave Workman)

In a narrow 4-3 ruling, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court said Wednesday gun owners can challenge Harrisburg’s gun control ordinances, and they don’t have to wait to be charged in order to have standing.

The ruling opens a door for law-abiding Keystone State gun owners to fight back against municipal gun control. Firearm Owners Against Crime will likely wind up back in the lower court to take on the city, the Associated Press reported.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the issue involves “local laws with criminal penalties for discharging a gun outside a gun range, possessing guns in parks, failing to report lost or stolen guns within two days or unaccompanied children having firearms outside their homes.”

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Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse was quoted declaring his city is prepared to defend the ordinances “with all of our might.”

“I think the ruling was good news for lawyers and the gun lobby but terrible news for both the residents of Harrisburg and the residents of the commonwealth,” Papenfuse reportedly contended.

He said the ruling sets a ‘dangerous precedent,’ a position supported by CeaseFire PA, a gun prohibition lobbying organization. CeaseFire’s Adam Garber told a reporter via email, “This decision could scare local officials who are searching for innovative and new solutions to a public health crisis that is claiming the lives of their constituents on a daily basis.”

But is this a public health issue or a crime problem? Does the ordinance turn honest citizens into criminals while actual criminals, perhaps illegally armed with stolen or illegally-purchased guns, or because of prior convictions, continue to ply their trade?

Local gun control ordinances are prohibited under state preemption statutes, which gun banners despise. A majority of states have such laws, and municipal governments dominated by liberal officials want to establish their own gun control laws, which history has shown can often be confusing and conflicting with ordinances in neighboring or nearby communities.

It was to eliminate such patchworks of local laws that state legislatures began adopting preemption statutes in the 1980s. These laws place control and responsibility for gun regulation in the hands of the state legislature. Cities and towns have been fighting them ever since.

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