Officials Sue State Over New Gun Law

Law lets NRA sue municipalities for restrictive gun ordinances.

A group of local, state, and federal officials today announced a challenge to the new Pennsylvania law that lets the NRA sue cities for restrictive gun ordinances.

The suit was filed by State. Sens Daylin Leach, Larry Farnese, and Vincent Hughes, along with State Reps. Cherelle Parker and Edward Gainey, joined by the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster.

It challenges the new law based on the process used to pass it: The bill was originally written to create penalties for the theft of copper wiring— late during the legislative session it was gutted and repurposed as a gun bill. (The full suit is below.)

A press release from Leach explains:

Leach contends that the passage of House Bill 80, which became Act 192, violates the Pennsylvania Constitution’s “original purpose” clause and its “single subject” clause. Article III Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution requires that a bill not be amended in a way that changes its original purpose, while Article III Section 3 requires that bills passed by the legislature contain only a single subject.

“The Constitution includes these rules so that our lawmaking process is as transparent as possible,” Leach said. “In what can only be described as a gift to the NRA, the bill’s supporters disregarded these rules. They used legislative tricks to obfuscate the lawmaking process, making it impossible for the public to participate in their democracy.”

“This utter contempt for Pennsylvania’s citizens and their constitution is an insult to our democratic principles,” Leach added. “Act 192 is not the product of a legitimate democratic process and so I am asking the Court to overturn it.”

Supporters of the bill say it prevents local governments from illegally setting restrictions against the wishes of the Legislature.

But critics say it will unduly burden cities tasked with trying to protect public safety.

“The City of Philadelphia has adopted numerous ordinances that it reasonably believes are within the City of Philadelphia’s lawful home rule authority granted by the General Assembly. Based on numerous public statements by firearms owners and advocates, and as a direct result of the enactment of Act 192, the City of Philadelphia expects to be challenged in court on each and every one of these ordinances, including by persons who are not even remotely affected thereby,” said the lawsuit, written by attorneys Martin Black and Robert Masterson, both of Dechert LLP in Philadelphia.

“These expected challenges will burden the courts with abstract lawsuits, will cost substantial sums in defense costs, will force resolution of important public policy and legislative interpretation questions without a real party in interest present before the court, will risk the payment of public dollars to private interest groups who have suffered no concrete harm, and will chill further legislative efforts by the City of Philadelphia to protect public safety.”

House Speaker Sam Smith, Lt. Gov. James Cawley and Gov. Tom Corbett are the named defendants.

Today’s press conference announcing the suit featured a rare display of unity between Mayor Nutter and the City Council:

Lawsuit that objects to Anti-Gun Violence & advocates announce lawsuit challenging NRA's ability to sue in court

A video posted by Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. (@mr4thdistrict) on