Pennsylvania court says Philadelphia gun control measure is illegal

A three-judge Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel on Monday ruled against a Philadelphia ordinance that requires gun owners to alert police of a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours.

As Axios reported, the court placed a permanent injunction on the 2009 ordinance, which effectively means it cannot be enforced.

In the case in question, Philadelphia police had fined a man $2,000 for allegedly violating the mandate.

So why did the three judges unanimously rule against the gun control measure?

“The judges cited a 1996 state Supreme Court decision that said assault weapons restrictions in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were not allowed because the Uniform Firearms Act put authority to regulate firearms in the hands of the state Legislature,” The Associated Press reported.

One of the judges, however, encouraged the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to revisit that 1996 precedent.

“The overwhelming blight of gun violence occurring in the City of Philadelphia, of which I believe we can take judicial notice, and the policy issues argued by the city in the case before us, call for a recognition that local conditions may well justify more severe restrictions than are necessary statewide,” Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter wrote.

“It is neither just to impose unnecessarily harsh limits in communities where they are not required nor consistent with simple humanity to deny basic safety regulations to citizens who desperately need them,” she added.

“When a child cannot leave his home to walk to the corner of his street without risking the prospect of being caught in a crossfire, we are denying him the most fundamental right, that of life and liberty.”

A pro-Second Amendment attorney had strong words of criticism for Leadbetter, arguing her “extremely disconcerting” concurrence was really “a call for judicial activism.”

“It’s outside the scope of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider that which is a constitutional provision,” the lawyer, Joshua Prince, told the Legal Intelligencer. “We believe that to the extent that Philadelphia believes the law should be changed, its sole recourse is that with the General Assembly and seeking a constitutional amendment.”

Republicans currently control both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature, meaning it’s highly unlikely Democrats will be able to push gun control measures through the General Assembly.

On the flip side of that, Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is not likely to support much pro-gun legislation, either.