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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2020 10:40 AM
From: Representative Matthew D. Dowling
To: All House members
Subject: Preemption Legislation former HB 1066
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation providing for better enforcement of Pennsylvania’s current state preemption over local firearms and ammunition regulations. The House passed a substantively similar bill as Act 192 of 2014, but that act was stricken as unconstitutional based on technical procedural rules, meaning that the substance of the legislation itself was never called into question. My new bill would reenact the substance of Act 192 but also includes important and meaningful improvements.

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 local governments continue to pass ordinances regulating firearms in defiance of state 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.

My bill 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 60 days’ written notice so it has time to voluntarily repeal its offending ordinance.

In addition, my new version includes two improvements on past legislation. First, a citizen who successfully defends against an illegal prosecution under one of these ordinances will also be entitled to collect reasonable attorneys fees and costs for defense. Second, to give municipalities even more fair notice, the Attorney General will be required to notify all municipalities of the contents of this bill before it ever goes into effect.

Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB979