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The gun suit ruling: Start anew

Commonwealth Court on Thursday ruled as unconstitutional a Pennsylvania law that allowed outside individuals and groups to sue local communities over their unconstitutional gun laws. But the ruling, by a seven-member panel of the appeals court, had absolutely nothing to do with the merits of Act 192.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, four other Democrat lawmakers and the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster challenged Act 192, passed last year. It began life as a House bill about scrap-metal theft penalties. But upon final Senate passage, it also enabled those lawsuits challenging municipal gun laws that, illegally, supersede state gun laws.

The court concluded that violated both the single subject rule of Article III, Section 3, of the Pennsylvania Constitution and Article III, Section 1’s prohibition against changing a bill’s original purpose. And that is correct.

But the plaintiffs’ real goal wasn’t some altruistic exercise in preserving constitutionally pure legislative procedures. No, it was about attempting to preserve a “right” created out of whole cloth to freelance state gun laws.

Act 192 affirmed the supremacy of 40-year-old state laws regarding firearms oversight; the court was neither asked to nor did it consider the merits of the law itself. Thus, it is incumbent upon the Republican-controlled Legislature to re-introduce this measure in a clean and single-purpose bill.

For if passed, it would force Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf to, by extension, either uphold state law or, in violation of his duty, eviscerate it.


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