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Pittsburgh Banning Guns, Protesters Gathering This Monday

Dec 21, 2018 12:09:35 PM / by Savannah Ashworth

Editors note:  This news article is purely informative.  Defense In Depth supports the Second Amendment in general, but has no affiliation with the protest mentioned.


The Pittsburgh City Council, with the support of Mayor William Peduto and Governor Tom Wolf, has put forward legislation that would ban "assault weapons" in the city.  In response, residents of the city and outlying areas are staging a protest downtown this coming Monday.  Organizers are expecting many protesters to openly carry firearms, which is legal everywhere in the state of Pennsylvania.  Kaitlyn Bennett, the Kent State graduate who became a lightning rod in the gun debate after taking graduation photos with her AR-15, will be one of the speakers.

The legislation being protested defines "assault weapons" as follows.

Rifles that have two of the following:
- detachable magazines
- a stock that moves in any way (telescoping, folding)
- a "pistol grip" that drops "conspicuously" below the chamber/action
- threaded barrel

Semi-auto Pistols with two of the following:
- magazine outside the grip
- threaded barrel
- anything covering the barrel that "permits the shooter to hold the firearm
with the non-trigger hand without being burned"
- over 50 ounces
- semi-automatic versions of automatic pistols

Shotguns with two of the following:
- detachable magazine
- a stock that moves in any way (telescoping, folding)
- a "pistol grip" that drops "conspicuously" below the chamber/action
- fixed capacity of more than 5 shells

Gun rights groups are preparing to challenge the legislation in court, and if history is any indicator of the future, they will probably be successful.  These challenges are sure to focus on state law -- specifically, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6120, concerning the “Limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition":

No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.

This sentence basically prevents cities and counties from making laws that are any stricter than the state standard.  When cities have tried to ignore this law in the past, they have always found themselves successfully challenged in court.

In the 1996 case Ortiz v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania settled the question as to whether Pittsburgh and Philadelphia could restrict commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. In finding that they could not, the court stated,

Because the ownership of firearms is constitutionally protected, its regulation is a matter of statewide concern. The constitution does not provide that the right to bear arms shall not be questioned in any part of the commonwealth except Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where it may be abridged at will, but that it shall not be questioned in any part of the commonwealth. Thus, regulation of firearms is a matter of concern in all of Pennsylvania, not merely in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the General Assembly, not city councils, is the proper forum for the imposition of such regulation.

As the NRA pointed out:

In the 2009 case National Rifle Association v. Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania came to the same conclusion after Philadelphia ignored the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s 1996 ruling and enacted a ban on commonly-owned firearms and a lost or stolen reporting ordinance. Citing Pennsylvania’s firearms preemption statute and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s decision in Ortiz, the Commonwealth Court struck down the local firearms ordinances. Philadelphia appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and was denied.

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Savannah Ashworth

Written by Savannah Ashworth