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Pittsburgh City Council approves ‘assault weapon’ & ‘red flag’ bills

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)
April 03, 2019

On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh City Council voted 6-3 to pass a highly controversial new gun law that would make it illegal for anyone to show, use or possess an “assault rifle” within the city limits.

This new legislation follows the Tree of Life synagogue in Oct. 2018, where a man killed 11 people with a semi-automatic rifle. The legislation was introduced in December and is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill Peduto, according to NBC News.

The council also approved a ban on armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines, and passed a “red flag” bill to confiscate guns from those deemed dangerous.

Councilman Corey O’Conner introduced and co-sponsored the bill. It was then amended in late March to ban the “use” of assault weapons within city limits, WPXI News reported.

O’Conner said, “I think people are starting to change their minds and be more open to some sort of gun control. Nobody, to our knowledge, has ever challenged the use of weapons. So, now we are taking it to the state, we are thinking outside the box to fight it on a different terminology.”

“It is the right fight to have and it is the right time to have this fight,” he added.

Gun rights advocates plan to file a lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh, as well as individual complaints against each supporting council member, based on the fact that state law doesn’t permit municipalities to control firearms.

Pennsylvania state law has forbidden municipalities from regulating the ownership or possession of guns or ammunition, which was the reason for the amendment made in late March, according to AP News.

Democrat Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who voted no said, “We are never going to enforce these laws. It’s a nice symbol.”

Kim Stolfer, president and co-founder of Firearms Owners Against Crime said, “All of it’s illegal. Pennsylvania preemption law says that no municipality, period, may in any manner regulate. And that’s at the heart of what they’re doing.”

Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto said, “Pittsburgh owes it to those murdered at Tree of Life and countless others living in fear of gun violence every day in city neighborhoods to take this cause on.”

Confident that the gun measure will nose-dive, Second Amendment attorney Joshua Prince said that he has countless triumphs in municipalities in Pennsylvania that have tried to restrict firearms. He called this effort, “political grandstanding.”