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Pittsburgh among plaintiffs accusing state of approving unconstitutional law for NRA

Pittsburgh is defending its local gun laws by suing Pennsylvania over a newly passed state law that the city contends could open it up to lawsuits from the National Rifle Association.

The city joins Philadelphia, Lancaster and five Democratic state lawmakers in the suit filed Monday in Commonwealth Court. The law, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed Nov. 6, broadens who can sue cities over gun ordinances that are tougher than state law, including gun membership organizations.

The suit alleges cities “will be forced to defend lawsuits brought under an unconstitutional statute.”

The plaintiffs claim the law violates the state Constitution’s “single subject” and “original purpose” clauses because lawmakers added gun law language into House Bill 80, initially drafted to establish a law specifically covering wire or copper theft.

“This legislation is not only unconstitutional but designed to bully cities like Pittsburgh trying to stop the flow of illegal guns into their neighborhoods,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement.

Pittsburgh’s ordinance requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours. Penalties include a fine up to $500, or up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail for a second offense. The state has no mandatory reporting requirement.

The NRA in 2009 sued Pittsburgh over its ordinance, but courts dismissed the suit based on standing. The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2009, when suing Pittsburgh, the organization said the city ordinance violates state law and that local governments were “infringing upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Peduto said Pittsburgh “will not be bullied, and we won’t stand idly by when the gun lobby is given special rights over citizens seeing blood running in their streets.”

Lancaster and Philadelphia have lost or stolen firearm reporting laws, as do more than 25 municipalities statewide, according to CeaseFirePA, an anti-gun-violence organization. In addition, Philadelphia has a law banning firearms on city property among its gun laws.

Josh Maus, spokesman for the state Office of General Counsel, said the state’s attorneys had yet to review the filing.

Jay Pagni, Corbett’s spokesman, said the state Supreme Court ruled in the past that local ordinances can’t supersede state law.

“That’s why the governor has supported this bill that gives persons and organizations standing to address any type of legal proceeding with a locality,” Pagni said.

Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or [email protected].


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