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Pittsburgh’s ‘assault weapon ban’ defies state law restricting gun regulations

A rack of various modern sporting rifles, mostly AR-15s, in Gallenson's Gun Shop, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. (Michael McConville/Wikimedia Commons)
March 22, 2019

The Pittsburgh City Council is attempting to push their proposed “assault rifle” ban using specific language to skirt state law prohibiting gun bans.

On Wednesday, the city council voted 6-0 to pass an amendment that bans the “use” of semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines in public, hoping that the “use” component will enable the city to technically defy state law, according to the Trib Live.

Current state law bans cities from enacting gun regulations, and gunowners intend to sue the city if they implement the regulation.

There are requirements to the amendments that would make the ban active only if the state Legislature passes enabling legislation or if Pennsylvania courts determine the ban is legal.

The “use” of assault weapons is defined per the amendment as:

  • Firing, attempting to fire, loading and brandishing an assault rifle.
  • Displaying a loaded assault rifle.
  • Pointing an assault rifle at another person.
  • Using an assault rifle in any way that is prohibited by state law.

The ban would go into effect 60 days after approved.

Councilman Corey O’Connor, one of the prime sponsors said, “The ban is still in effect. It’s tied to state legislation or the state courts where we think we might be headed. We are now adding a section (on use) that we believe strengthens our capabilities of winning at that state level. This has never been tested before. This has never been challenged. We feel like we have a really strong case.”

The city council will hold a vote on the legislation on March 27.

Those who oppose gun bans say it is a constitutional rights violation.

Kim Stolfer, president of the group Firearms Owners Against Crime, said, “They certainly are trying to tap dance around the reality that what they’re doing is illegal. The right to bear arms and the preemption law are inseparably intertwined, and the city, no matter how hard they try, cannot take any action in this field of law. What they’re doing is a deprivation of rights.”

The extreme risk bill has also been amended. It grants authorities the ability to seize someone’s guns if they are considered a threat to themselves or others. The amendment adds consequences for a gun owner if a child uses a gun owned by that person. Exclusions would include if that child got a hold of a gun during a burglary, was acting in self-defense, or accessed the weapon from a secured lock box.

These gun reforms follow old but still fresh fervor from the massacre that left 11 people dead at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018. The calls for gun control intensified during the more recent attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead and injured 50 more.