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Judge strikes down Pittsburgh’s ‘assault weapons’ ban, ‘red flag’ gun confiscation rule that defied state law

A gavel. (TNS/Released)
October 30, 2019

On Tuesday, a Pittsburgh judge struck down three gun control city ordinances that were passed following the mass shooting in 2018 at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue.

The ordinances restricted the possession of “assault weapons” and prohibited possession of high-capacity magazines in public places in the city limits, and also a “red flag” ordinance that permitted courts to confiscate weapons from a person deemed a danger to themselves or the public. Allegheny County Common Pleas Senior Judge Joseph M. James called the ordinances “void and unenforceable,” the Post Gazette reported.

Judge James’ opinion stated the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, “regulates the entire field of firearms and ammunition across the state of Pennsylvania.”

He added, “The City has expended a large amount of energy attempting to categorize the restricted behavior in such a way that it is not expressly prohibited” by state law. Despite the City’s efforts to avoid the specific preemption set forth in [the law], they are not able to avoid the obvious intent of the legislature to preempt this entire field.”

Current state law bans cities from enacting gun regulations, but the Pittsburgh City Council worked to alter the language of the ordinances to circumvent state law and passed the ordinances with a 6-0 vote.

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Many City Council members, led by Mayor Bill Peduto, had joined forces to get the ordinances passed.

Timothy McNulty, the mayor’s spokesman said, “The city and its outside legal counsel have always expected this would be a long legal fight and will continue to fight for the right to take common sense steps to prevent future gun violence. We will appeal.”

The plaintiffs, Firearm Owners Against Crime, Firearm Policy Coalition Inc., Firearm Policy Foundation and three individuals — Matthew Boardley, Saadyah Averick and Fred Rak — had filed a lawsuit against the city after they passed the ordinances earlier this year.

Firearms Industry Consulting Group’s attorney, Joshua Prince said, “They knew that these ordinances were unlawful, and they passed them anyway. Therefore, city council members are not some special class of citizens,” KDKA 2 News reported.

“Only the General Assembly can regulate firearms and ammunition,” Prince added.

Back in March, 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.”

Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said, “This is a huge victory for law-abiding gun owners and everyone who values freedom in the Keystone state. Cases like this underscore the peoples’ need for judges who will faithfully interpret the law in defense of their rights and liberties.”