State legislators again put local gun laws in crosshairs
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.