A judge on Tuesday struck down gun restrictions that the Pittsburgh City Council imposed after last year’s synagogue massacre, noting that Pennsylvania state law forbids municipalities from regulating firearms.
Three of Pittsburgh’s gun ordinances violate state law and are therefore “void and unenforceable,” Allegheny County Judge Joseph James ruled.
State law has long prohibited municipalities from regulating the ownership or possession of guns or ammunition, and Pennsylvania courts have thrown out previous municipal attempts at regulation.
“We are extremely pleased with Judge James’ decision today striking down the city of Pittsburgh’s unlawful firearm ordinances and signage, which only sought to eviscerate the inviolate right of the residents of the Commonwealth to keep and bear arms and ensnare law-abiding citizens through a patchwork of laws,” said attorney Joshua Prince, who represents Firearms Owners Against Crime and other groups that sued to overturn the measures.
City officials vowed an appeal.
Pittsburgh “will continue to fight for the right to take commonsense steps to prevent future gun violence,” said Timothy McNulty, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto.
The gun restrictions were passed in April after a mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that killed 11 worshipers. The ordinances would have restricted military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle authorities say was used in the attack. They also banned most uses of armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines, and allowed the temporary seizure of guns from people who are determined to be a danger to themselves or others.
The overwhelmingly Democratic council passed the legislation, and Peduto signed off. Council members who voted no called the legislation a waste of time and money, given the uncertainty over whether it would ever go into effect. Supporters said it was worth the effort.
The city “expended a large amount of energy” arguing that its new laws did not run afoul of state law, the judge noted, but city officials “are not able to avoid the obvious intent of the Legislature” to prevent municipalities from enforcing their own gun laws.
Pittsburgh tried enforcing an assault-weapons ban in 1993, but the state Legislature quickly took action to invalidate the measure, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that city officials had overstepped.