September 21, 2016
It's Groundhog Day for Pennsylvania gun legislation.
Under a bill that passed the state House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, residents could seek financial help when suing a municipality for enacting local gun ordinances that aren't uniform with state law.
The legislation might seem familiar, and it should. In 2014, an almost identical bill became law — Act 192 —that allowed gun groups like the National Rifle Association to take legal action on the behalf of individuals against cities and towns for their firearm laws.
The NRA pounced on the new law, filing suit against cities like Philadelphia, Lancaster and Pittsburgh for their local laws.
But those cities, along with some Democratic lawmakers, sued state legislators for passing the bill and won. In June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a Commonwealth Court ruling in June 2015 that the legislative process that pushed the bill through was unconstitutional.
The new bill, which now goes to the House floor, has one main difference from the old law, according to its sponsor, Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry/Cumberland: A plaintiff must provide 30 days written notice before filing suit to give a town a chance to repeal a gun ordinance voluntarily.
“Why have I re-introduced the same bill that was thrown out by the Supreme Court? Because it was made very clear – the law was not considered to be unconstitutional, it was the way it was put through,” Keller said in a press release.
If passed, the law could once again mean Philly's gun laws could be challenged. As Mayor Jim Kenney's office noted after the state Supreme Court decision earlier this summer, Act 192 would have gone against a general rule that each party pay its own attorney fees.
The NRA has been urging its members to support the bill. Per a press release:
Gun owners continue to be unduly burdened by local ordinances which violate the current state firearm preemption law. Citizens with no criminal intent should not be placed in jeopardy of running afoul of local restrictions they don't even know exist simply because they have crossed from one municipality to another.
Kenney's office could not immediately be reached for comment.