|Posted:||July 8, 2015 12:28 PM|
|From:||Representative Mark K. Keller|
|To:||All House members|
|In the near future, I plan on re-introducing legislation providing for better enforcement of Pennsylvania’s current state preemption over local firearms and ammunition regulations.
On June 15, the Commonwealth Court ruled that Act 192 of 2014 was unconstitutional. Act 192 contained the same language that is in my proposed bill concerning enforcement of Pennsylvania’s current firearm preemption law. Importantly, the court’s decision was based merely on technical procedural rules, meaning that the substance of the legislation itself was never called into question. The problem to be addressed is this: While Commonwealth law already provides, in most circumstances, for preemption of local firearm laws, the courts have made that law very difficult for ordinary citizens to enforce.
Section 6120 of the Crimes Code specifically prohibits local regulation of the ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components in conflict with statewide law. This section implements the statewide constitutional right recognized by Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Despite this, in recent years, local governments have been passing ordinances regulating firearms in defiance of Pennsylvania law.
Where no uniform state laws are in place, the result can be chaotic as restrictions change from one local jurisdiction to another. Where so many different ordinances are allowed to exist, citizens with no criminal intent are placed in danger of breaking restrictions where they don’t know they exist. Furthermore, it is unreasonable to require residents of Pennsylvania and citizens passing through from other states to memorize every firearm ordinance as they pass through each local jurisdiction. The end result is that citizens can be forced to incur significant expenses to hire attorneys to challenge these illegal and unconstitutional ordinances.
The law that the Commonwealth Court struck down – which this legislation would re-enact – will correct the problem. Specifically, this legislation would deter local jurisdictions from imposing illegal ordinances by providing that any party who successfully challenges one of these illegal local firearm ordinances will be entitled to reimbursement from the offending jurisdiction for their reasonable attorneys fees and costs to bring the lawsuit, and any loss of income suffered because of the illegal ordinance. To give local governments fair notice, this bill will include a requirement that prior to a legal challenge, the local government should be given one month’s written notice so it has time to voluntarily repeal its offending ordinance.
Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation.