News

The NRA and Second Amendment Rights Dealt a Major Blow in Pennsylvania

Seal of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Lady Justice should be blind, but all too often we see local politics and personal biases wiggling the fickle finger of fate. The meddling lawmakers do not seek what many would consider justice, but instead seeks to manipulate the process in an attempt to stack the deck against a fair hearing of the facts.

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Gun rights groups were dealt a blow this week when the court struck down a 2014 law allowing them to sue local municipalities in Pennsylvania.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been a major force in assuring the defense and preservation of our Second Amendment rights at the federal level. Likewise, the NRA can be credited for significant victories at the state level. The danger for some has come at the local level; a tactic endorsed by Bloomberg and his anti-gun cronies.

To protect against biased local governments, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a law in 2014 that made local lawmakers a bit nervous. Local communities that passed draconian laws that conflicted with state laws or rights granted by the states could find themselves on the defendant line of lawsuits from the NRA. However, a state court struck down that law earlier this week. This was welcome news for communities such as Allentown and Bethlehem PA, but a threat to the Second Amendment rights of those communities’ citizens.

It is unclear how long local administrators will take, but pro gun citizens have been put on notice by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, “If the decision stands, I will proudly reintroduce our ordinances for council’s consideration and support.”

The legalese gets a bit deep, but goes something like this: The Commonwealth Court’s 7-0 ruling says Act 192 violated the state constitution’s “single-subject” rule, which prohibits unrelated topics from being cobbled together into a single piece of legislation.

The court said the provision, which gave any in-state or out-of-state organization, including the NRA, the ability to sue Pennsylvania municipalities over tighter gun laws had no bearing on the bill’s original intent, which dealt with scrap metal thefts. The law “clearly, palpably and plainly violates the single-subject requirement,” Judge Robert Simpson wrote for the court.

Democratic lawmakers, gun-safety advocates and municipal leaders—opposed to the Second Amendment as you may see it—hailed the decision. The 2014 law subjected multiple municipalities to lawsuits and prompted dozens of others, including Allentown and Bethlehem, to repeal various firearms statutes under fear of being sued. At the time, it was considered a victory for the Second Amendment, so we can only say it has to be a loss to lose these protections.

Seal of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
“This is a major victory for public safety and the rule of law in Pennsylvania and a major defeat for the NRA,” Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, said at a Capitol news conference. Leach used to work as a lawyer in Allentown and was a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. However, Republican lawmakers are vowing to take the case to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court.

“This is a major victory for public safety and the rule of law in Pennsylvania and a major defeat for the NRA,” Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, said at a Capitol news conference. Leach used to work as a lawyer in Allentown and was a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, said municipalities now should have the courage to put their ordinances and resolutions back on the books. Like Leach, he bid good riddance to a law they believe was rammed through the Legislature as a favor to the NRA. “They were wrong,” Farnese said of its backers. “Very simply, they were wrong.”

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling,” said Jonathan Goldstein, an attorney for the NRA. “We think the standard they applied creates an unworkable legislative process.”

“This law was clearly unconstitutional from the outset and designed to threaten Pittsburgh and other cities trying to protect their neighborhoods from illegal guns,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement.

To be fair, Pennsylvania has long history of prohibiting municipalities from enforcing firearms ordinances that regulate the ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of guns or ammunition. Like so many laws these days, it is not whether you have a law, but whether or not the local governments are following the law. Gun-rights groups complained that scores of municipalities ignored the 40-year-old prohibition by approving their own gun restrictions.

The fight is not over. For the gun-owning citizens of Pennsylvania and the gun rights groups such as the NRA, this was a battle, not the war. The Republican-controlled Senate expects to take the fight to the state’s highest court.

“We are reviewing the court’s decision and anticipate that we will file an appeal with the Supreme Court in order to vindicate the Legislature’s ability to enact meaningful changes to the law,” said Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre.

Mental Health

Some Keystone state lawmakers are getting it right or at least trying. Rep. Todd Stevens, R-Montgomery, introduced a separate firearms bill. Stevens’ bill would have required the Pennsylvania State Police to send existing mental health data of firearms applicants to the federal government’s electronic background check system.

The Timeline

The House passed Stevens amended bill, but unfortunately, it died in the Senate. While controversial to some, not wanting the government to have more information than necessary, all of the high-profile mass shootings have a strong link to mental health. The bill had at least a degree of merit, but would have challenges of it own.

As a result, the Senate later incorporated the NRA lawsuit provisions and Stevens’ mental health check plan into Metcalfe’s scrap metal bill, which passed Oct. 16, 2014. Four days later, the House approved the Senate version. Gun-rights groups quickly marshaled their forces and sued Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster. Leach and his supporters counter-sued, citing the constitution’s single-subject rule.

In legal papers seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, Republican lawmakers countered that the bill was not illegal because the theft of scrap metal and firearms issues both fall under Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code. Republicans challenged that the bill was legal because it was fully vetted during “the open and lively debate in both the Senate and House regarding the final version of Act 192.” However, the court disagreed and voided the entire law.

Second Amendment
It seems the government only wants to pass laws to strip the weapons from honest gun owners. I have yet to hear of a single law being proposed that seeks to remove guns from the hands of criminals. Have you?

“The original purpose of [the bill] pertained solely to the penalties for the theft of secondary metal, while the final purpose was altered so as to include, among other things, creation of a civil action through which to challenge local firearms legislation,” Simpson wrote. “Clearly, these are vastly different activities.”

How do you see the bill’s intention? Do you agree with the court; should the bill only apply to scrap metal? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section.

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Comments (29)

  1. In my opinion. Because of stupidity of a few gun owners that don’t secure there wepons and or ammo properly. Especially if you have someone that is deficient at home. We have to fight a harder up hill because of the masses. And these numbers about gun related deaths have got to be wrong. And all this b.s. about N.R.A. should be on the terrorists list and they compare to these other groups. It totally B.S. like Walmart we will only carry gun and ammo for the hunting community. Because combat rifles sales are down. It’s divide and conquer mentality. I found my self in a up roar that hey would you rather sell to a person who likes to shoot animals or paper targets. Then I realized I was wrong for thinking this way. And these presidential runners jump on the bandwagon. ( rifles that doesn’t have a hunting propose are designed for killing people. ) and he wants then stop. This not word for but what he said . B.s.
    P.s. Sorry for ranting.

  2. This law only added teeth to existing PA law that states municipalities cannot write stricter laws than those of the state. Without this law, cities such as Harrisburg can, and have, laws that are illegal. If I carry my licensed firearm, for which I have a License to Carry, along the river, which happens to be a “city park”, I can be arrested and levied a fine for doing so. Of course, I can get a lawyer, fight it in court, and probably win, but the cost is all mine. I would have to pay to fight an illegal city ordinance. Act 192 puts the financial burden on the municipality bringing the action. Frankly, we shouldn’t even need this law, but we do. Being a law abiding citizen, if I had a reason to be in that park, I would have to leave my firearm locked in my vehicle. This is just one more opportunity for crooks to break into my vehicle and procure themselves another ill-gained firearm. Somebody explain to me how this action will help curb gun violence.

  3. It’s quite common to see issues get mixed into changes, pork anyone? So I think the intent was nothing more, or less, than what it held. Being sued costs money, and this is what it was about. For it to said it was about safety is anti-2A rhetoric. Hope it can be repaired.

  4. It would seem on the surface to be a defeat but I would say it can be turned into a victory because it works BOTH ways. NOW, the opposition can NOT tack anything onto any passing bills at the last minute and slip it through either. They now have to abide by the same provisions and submit “single-subject” bills that can EASILY be seen for what they are. AND voted against WITHOUT putting some OTHER, badly needed legislation in jeopardy. In fact, THAT would be a perfect thing to fight FOR in the District of Communism because it would PREVENT that common practice there too. There is ALOT to be said for the wisdom in that provision’s enforcement.
    As for the “Mental Health” angle of attack on our rights, we have to be VERY careful how THAT is presented because once THAT Pandora’s box is opened it’s ONLY A MATTER OF TIME before “They” declare ANYONE that WANTS to own something as “Dangerous” as a Gun MUST be “Mentally Ill” and therefore, NOT “Allowed” to own one. AND must surrender any they ALREADY HAVE. The ONLY answer to “Gun Control” is NO ONE “CONTROLS” MY guns except ME!

  5. Let us not forget that the socialist, smarter than us California dumocrats declared San Francisco a refuge for illegal immigrants. I guess they will have to let him go free.

  6. Obama has Blood on his hands. He told the head of L.C.E. to reverse her decision .Lawlessness on the Local and Federal level. Obamas silence speaks VOLUMES.

  7. On July 4th 18yo Jasper Spires murdered Kevin Sutherland a 24yo Caucasian Geek in the Nations Capitol on a Metro Train while stealing his iphone. The stabbing took place just after noon (12:40 PM) and in front of a number of people, not one of whom would come to his aid. Mr. Sutherland was a very strong advocate for gun control among his other very liberal stances, and the liberal news media in Washington have decided to mourn quietly one of their own rather than put any publicity in the hands of those who are not ultra liberal. I’m not gloating over the young man’s death, I think it’s very sad. Mr. Spires had been released on his own recognizance 36 hours before after stabbing another robbery victim and assaulting a police officer. The judge did not see anything dangerous in his behavior. Fox News is carrying the story.

    1. Kurt, in one short story,. you have very concisely explained the factors contributing to violent crime in America.

      1. Criminals getting a free walk to commit more crimes.
      2. The disarmament of law abiding citizens.

      Of course, if Mr. Sutherland had taken the time and interest to get some training and carried a weapon of some kind, even a tactical pen, he might have survived. I have to travel into DC and Maryland frequently on business, and although I cannot legally carry a gun, and I don’t, I am always armed in some way. But Liberals seem to believe in the Good Fairy who will protect them from mean people.

    2. @ Mikial.

      I don’t understand your “Plight”. Maryland has Reciprocity Gun Laws on Concealed Carry and Maryland Permit Open Carry. Washington, DC. has Open Carry Gun Laws, and Concealed Carry, if you can Show Just Cause to Conceal Carry.

  8. People say do not vote on a single issue

    and that local government can not change the 2 nd Amendment

    that is how TYRANTS are born.

    1. I understand what you’re saying, but to be honest, I vote on a single issue.

      I’ve found over the decades that a candidate who is pro-gun rights also believes in the other things i do, And even if they don;t, gun rights are important enough that it’s what I look at first and foremost.

  9. “The law “clearly, palpably and plainly violates the single-subject requirement,” Judge Robert Simpson wrote for the court.”

    Hard to argue with that on general principles. Usually, it’s lots of bad sh!@ that gets snuck onto unrelated bills. Just because this one bill isn’t bad doesn’t mean the whole concept is good. Pass the bill on its own.

    1. @ Rick.

      There’s a provision in the 9th Amendment (Article I, Section VIII), which ALLOW’S the President of the United States. TOO SUSPEND ALL, Bill of Right’s Laws in the Constitution. This Includes: Speech, Press, Assembly, Religion and the Right to Bear Arms. For an INDEFINITE Period of Time. President George Washington, was the First to use it in the Shaws’ Rebellion (aka The Federalist Papers) in Virginia, From 1787-1789. The Civil War, WW1, WW2, and So On…

  10. Spot On Thom! All I can add is the observation that El Baracks position is to not enforce our immigration with vigor.I agree with Cruz-applaud Trump for shining a light on such a severe problem.

  11. Oh but gun laws do work, when the gun owner is a law abiding citizen.

    NEWS FLASH TO DUMBA$$ POLITICAL LEADERS: CRIMINALS DO NOT ABIDE LAWS!

    Also IMO is really more proof that Customs and Border Patrol, ICE, and INS are worthless dysfunctional agencies that need a complete reorganization and a government that actually enforces immigration laws.

    Personally I am a firm believer that this country is already infested with spies from China, Russia, and leading terrorist organizations, due to our lax enforcement of our borders and immigration.

  12. It should be a simple enough matter to go back to the state legislature and fix the problem by passing a law that dictates that state law is supreme in these matters.

    t’s not really that much of a concern as far as I can see. I would ignore any unconstitutional local ordinance in any case. Any local official who thinks he would be coming into my house to check up on it would be very unpleasantly surprised.

  13. Last weekend it was reported that a woman in San Fran. was shot to death in front of her father by an illegal alien.San Fran prides itself on strict Anti- Gun laws. Penn. citizens should take notice of that crime.The perp. had been deported a number of times.It is all political- your lives dont mean a crap to the posturing politicians.

    1. @ steve b.

      What I find interesting is, that the guy was Jailed 7-Times, Deported 5-Times and in each case was able to get a gun. In a state with one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.

    2. And the moral of the story is a two parter:

      1. Gun laws don’t work
      2. If you really want to protect citizens quit giving illegals and felons 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th . . . chances.

    3. Apparently the guy who shot and killed the young lady. Didn’t comeback into the Country by Coyote Smugglers,he was employed by the Merchant Marines. And came in by Ship as a Merchant Marine Deck Handler, gun probable came out ship’s Small Arm’s Locker. That most Merchant Marine Vessels have onboard.

    4. I don’t know if i would go so far as to say the gun came from the ship. More likely, he picked it up off the street from some thug selling it out of the trunk of his car. It was probably stolen.

    5. @ Mikial.

      You were somewhat right, the gun that was used in the Shoot Death. Was stolen from the vehicle of a Federal Agent from the Bureau of Land Management, within a Half Hour or so before the Homicide. Near the waterfront from vessel the suspect Jumped-Ship from, according to USA Today.

    6. Yeah, I saw that today.

      It just provides further evidence that criminals will obtain guns anywhere they can, and no amount of gun laws will prevent that.

      I do have to ask why a Federal Agent would leave a weapon in a situation where it can be stolen. The past few years have illustrated far too many instances where the Feds have somehow provided the bad guys with guns. Some intentionally in a misguided effort to strop them, and others in pure carelessness.

      I have carried guns my entire life and never had one stolen. You would think a Federal agent would know better.

    7. @ Mikial.

      Just recently, a Prince George’s County, MD. Police claimed his Car-4 was Stolen out of his Unit, while he was changing the Tire of that Unit. Less than 20 feet away, and he saw nothing. How do you Steal a Car-4 out of a Police Cruiser, without moving the Vehicle or making any Noise.

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