State leg­is­la­tors again put lo­cal gun laws in crosshairs

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

HARRISBURG >> Penn­syl­va­nia law­mak­ers moved closer Tues­day to re-en­act­ing leg­is­la­tion that would let the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and sim­i­lar groups chal­lenge lo­cal gun reg­u­la­tions that are more re­stric­tive than state law.

The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee voted 21-6 for a bill that is nearly iden­ti­cal to a ver­sion thrown out by Com­mon­wealth Court last year, a de­ci­sion up­held by the state Supreme Court in June.

The pro­posal gives stand­ing to state residents who are gun own­ers — as well as or­ga­ni­za­tions they are mem­bers of — to file chal­lenges to lo­cal gun or­di­nances, and if suc­cess­ful to be re­im­bursed for rea­son­able ex­penses.

The pre­vi­ous law was in­val­i­dated be­cause it was deemed to vi­o­late a ban in the state con­sti­tu­tion on bundling un­re­lated top­ics in a sin­gle bill. It had been en­acted as part of leg­is­la­tion that also ad­dressed the theft of metal.

“The law it­self is not un­con­sti­tu­tional — it’s the way it was put through,” Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry, said dur­ing com­mit­tee de­bate. Keller is the bill’s prime spon­sor.

The new ver­sion adds a pro­vi­sion re­quir­ing 30 days’ no­tice be­fore fil­ing a law­suit, to give mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties time to re­peal their or­di­nances and avoid lit­i­ga­tion.

The prior ver­sion was rushed through the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture and signed in 2014 by then-Gov. Tom Cor­bett, also a Repub­li­can. The NRA then sued over lo­cal gun reg­u­la­tions in Pitts­burgh, Philadel­phia and Lan­caster, and other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties re­sponded by re­peal­ing their lo­cal or­di­nances.

Sup­port­ers of the re­vised mea­sure said statewide uni­for­mity makes more sense than a patch­work of lo­cal or­di­nances that can be dif­fi­cult to track and com­ply with.

“There are mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that refuse to abide by the law of pre-emp­tion, that’s the bot­tom line,” said Rep. Bryan Barbin of Cam­bria County, one of sev­eral Democrats to vote with all but one Repub­li­can on the com­mit­tee to ad­vance the bill.

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Mont­gomery, said 30 days prob­a­bly won’t be enough time for lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to act.

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