Commonwealth Court rejects law on municipal gun ordinances

Written by WITF Staff Report and The Associated Press | Jun 25, 2015 9:55 AM

Photo by AP Photo/Keith Srakocic


(Harrisburg) -- A state appellate court is striking down a Pennsylvania law designed to make it easier for gun-rights advocates to dismantle local gun ordinances. 

Commonwealth Court has ruled the procedure lawmakers used last year to enact the law ran afoul of the state constitution. 

Lancaster, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, along with a handful of Democratic lawmakers, sued the commonealth over the law.

Under the law, gun owners no longer had to show they were harmed by an ordinance in order to challenge it, and it let "membership organizations'' like the National Rifle Association sue on behalf of any Pennsylvania member.

The provision was merged late in last year's legislative session with a bill whose intent was to establish criminal penalties for secondary metals. It was signed into law by then-Governor Tom Corbett.

The judges say it violated constitutional requirements that bills can't be altered to change their original purpose and must be confined to a single subject. 

Several gun rights groups used the law to sue communities across the state, including Montgomery County's Lower Merion Township, Lancaster and Pittsburgh.

Several communities, including Reading, have repealed gun ordinances following passage of a law strengthening state pre-emption of municipal gun ordinances.  

Earlier this year, a Dauphin County judge issued a preliminary ruling that three of Harrisburg's restrictions on guns are unlawful, while preserving two ordinances banning firing a gun within city limits and requiring reporting of lost or stolen weapons.

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