Gun Advocates Sue Harrisburg, Using New Law
A new law that allows third parties to sue Pennsylvania cities for having restrictive gun ordinances — even if they suffered no personal harm — has been used as the basis for a new lawsuit against the City of Harrisburg.
Houston-based U.S. Law Shield and two members of its Pennsylvania chapter filed the lawsuit, asking the court to stop Harrisburg from enforcing various firearms ordinances. They include ordinances that ban possession of firearms in parks, allow the mayor to prohibit public possession of weapons in a declared state of emergency and require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police.
The 48-page complaint said the defendants possess and use their guns in accordance with state law, but they are now “in danger of facing prosecution and criminal penalties.”
The law, which permits “membership groups” to file lawsuits on behalf of members, was widely seen as allowing the NRA to file suit. U.S. Law Shield is a “firearms legal defense program” that claims more than 100,000 members.
The law is being challenged by several cities — including Philadelphia — although one estimate suggests 22 other Pennsylvania municipalities have repealed their gun restrictions rather than face a lawsuit. PennLive reports on the reaction from State Sen. Daylin Leach, an opponent of the law.
“We passed a law to allow outside groups to sue our own constituents,” Leach said. “I don’t know what state legislature does that. It’s nothing but a gift to the NRA at the expense of our own people.”
The plaintiffs in the Harrisburg case said they chose the city due to its symbolic position as the state capital. The lead plaintiff is not a Harrisburg resident and, while his attorney’s office has a Harrisburg address, he also lives outside the city.
“People have to deal with these lawsuits which are nothing more than harassment against the citizens of whichever municipality is sued,” Leach said.