PA:"City (Philly) to Sue State Over Gun Laws" (Phila bills added)

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Dec 31, 2003
Somewhere in Monkey County, MD
You PA guys are taking it on the chin. It looks like visitors to Philly with CCW's may get hosed and have to sue to protect their rights under PA law.

Edited to add 4:40pm: Now that I had a chance to read over the bills in more detail, it looks like they all specify that they will only become effective AFTER the state passes legislation authorizing Phila. to enact them. Whew!
City to sue state over gun laws
By Nancy Petersen and Patrick Kerkstra
Inquirer Staff Writers

Fed up with foot-dragging in Harrisburg over gun control, Philadelphia is now taking its case to court.

City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke said last night that the city plans to file a lawsuit today in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court alleging that the General Assembly has failed in its duty to protect the residents of the city.

"It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the General Assembly is unwilling or unable to act," Clarke said in a telephone interview last night. "We have no choice but to go to court."

Straw purchases have proliferated dramatically because the state has failed to enact laws that rein them in, he said.

In a straw purchase, somebody legally acquires a firearm and then sells it to somebody else who is not eligible to own one, such as a convicted felon on parole or probation. Critics say that straw purchases are responsible for much of the firepower on the city's streets.

In addition to authorizing the suit today, Council intends to approve eight gun-control measures that have been languishing in Council for more than a year, Clarke said.

Among other things, the bills call for limiting handgun purchases to one a month, and for owners to report any guns that are lost or stolen, Clark said.

David Kairys, a professor at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University, said that the laws Council is expected to enact today should be valid because of the city's Home Rule Charter. But the charter's power is diminishing, he said.

"The legislature and the Supreme Court have so undercut it that it's hard to say we have home rule anymore," said Kairys, who in the 1990s led the city's legal team in an unsuccessful court challenge against handgun manufacturers.

He said he could not comment on the particulars of the lawsuit to be filed today because he hadn't seen it.

Clarke said that while several members of the city's Harrisburg delegation had worked tirelessly on the gun-control issue, they had not been able to sway their more-rural colleagues to their side.

"The fact that we are approaching 150 murders means that we can no longer wait for them to get their act together," he said. As of midnight Tuesday, 137 homicides had occurred in the city.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) that called for gun registration and an annual fee of $10 a gun triggered a massive outcry from opponents who said they felt the legislation threatened their right to own guns. Several lawmakers who initially supported Cruz's measure have since backed off.

and the cheerleading editorial


EIGHT GUN-CONTROL bills, one of which would limit gun purchases to one per month, and another that would make failure to report a lost or stolen gun a crime, will be introduced in City Council today. Each is expected to easily pass, and be quickly signed by Mayor Street.

But the bills' sponsor, Councilman Darrell Clarke, will take an additional step. He will file suit in Common Pleas Court, arguing the city -and not the state -should be allowed to regulate guns.

It's a double-barrel blast, triggered by the rise in city shootings and homicides, often committed with illegally purchased guns. It's also triggered by Harrisburg's failure to consider, introduce, or let alone pass, meaningful gun-control laws.

The General Assembly may go through the motions of grappling with the gun issue. But despite demands from Philadelphia, including a charter initiative that granted the city jurisdiction over its gun laws and that was overwhelming approved by voters, the status quo remains.

A city of the first class such as Philadelphia shoud not be forced to suffer under gun laws more appropriate for rural jurisdictions. And Philadelphia is no longer alone, because other counties, such as Berks and Allegheny, suffer from gun violence.

Clarke's bills get to the heart of straw purchasing in which a gun is legally bought at a gun shop, then illegally sold out on the streets.

In addition to a citywide gun registry, another bill would prohibit people with a restraining order or a domestic-abuse case against them from legally owning guns.

The number of guns in Philadelphia is astonishing: Police confiscated about 6,000 guns last year. Another 1,000 came of the streets via gun buy- backs and turn-ins. About 86 percent of the city's 137 homicides this year were committed by handguns.

And even the feds struggle with this. A local spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives told Daily News columnist Elmer Smith that a major source of guns on the street come from "missing inventory" from licensed dealers.

Clarke's bills, if the state courts approve, can bring into check the chaos and killing that afflicts our city. State gun laws should not be, and cannot be, a one-size-fits-all proposition. *

Here is a link to the PDF with today's agenda:

The bills are as follows:

- ammo sales registry

- ban on so-called assault weapons AND OTHERS with NO GRANDFATHERING
-- over-16-round magazines
-- suppressors
-- "assault weapon conversion kits"
-- "expanding type conical bullet available in handgun chamberings" (?!?):what:

- one-gun-a-month based on a Philly purchase permit system:

- prohibition on gun ownership by those with restraining orders against them

- gun ownership licensing (including required training)

- CCW renewals require reporting to Phila. PD of ALL guns owned by the CCW holder(?!)

- seizure of guns from those posing "imminent harm to self of others"

- mandatory reporting of lost/stolen firearms

Somewhat OT, but possible harbinger (edit: I cut down the article):
Police seize cache of weapons in raid on Franklinville home
By Sam Wood
Inquirer Staff Writer

- - -

At the Franklinville house, troopers seized more than 30 handguns, long guns, and assault-weapon parts. Several of the weapons could have been converted into machine guns, Jones said.

They also recovered a "ballistic knife," a hybrid weapon that shoots a blade from a spring-loaded handle, Jones said.

Troopers arrested the arsenal's owner, Larry Biagi, 49, without incident at his home on New Pearl Street in Vineland, and charged him on multiple weapons counts. Biaggi, a Cumberland County scrap dealer, was being held last night on $10,000 bail at the Gloucester County Jail. . . .
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AUGH. This is ticking me off. I didn't get into guns until after I moved here to PA, and I found the place to be remarkably gun-friendly (well, setting aside, for the moment, the "not-a-registration" registration scheme). At least at first.

I'm getting tired of writing letters to my elected officials.
Actually, in regard to the third article, Franklinville, Vineland, Bridgeton, Cumberland County, and Gloucester County are all names of places in New Jersey. Unless there are similarly named places in PA, that would explain the problems.
Ugh. Here's hoping Philadelphia takes one on the nose in state court. My main fear is that Rendell will find a way to make sure the state is less than vigorous in its defense of state preemption.

The bills all have some version this disclaimer:

The statutory limitations of municipalities to regulate the possession, sale
and transfer of firearms, as upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, has been duly
considered and incorporated within the body of this legislation. And, we take into
account the paramount interests of the public safety of the citizens of our City and

I wonder how far that will get them?
It's just a lawsuit to get media attention. It will be kicked out of court fairly quickly. If the police don't have a duty to protect individual citizens, why would the state have a duty to protect indivdiual cities?

As for Pennsylvania having the power to pass the laws it wants and tell Philadelphia what it can and cannot do, that was decided in 1907.

From Hunter v. City of Pittsburgh (207 US 161), SCOTUS says:

Municipal corporations are political subdivisions of the State, created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the governmental powers of the State as may be entrusted to them. for the purpose of executing these powers properly and efficiencly they usually are given the power to acquire, hold, and manage personal and real property. The number, nature and duration of the powers conferred upon these corporations and the territory over which they shall be exercised rests in the absolute discretion of the State. (emphasis added).
Whoever's representing the state need only ask if the city will GUARANTEE all of its citizens' complete safety. If not, then it has no business attempting to restrict its citizens' means of self defense.
Philly needs to ask itself two questions:
1) With Indiana so close to Chicago, and PA so close to New York City, is it really the difficulty of bringing in guns that makes it harder for people to get them illegally?
2) Considering NYC's murder-rate in 1990, some 79 years into the Sullivan Act, is a city ordinance really going to have *any* effect on the black market?

Obviously the answers are no, but looking busy is what is really at stake here, not results. If it wanted a drop in crime, Philly would increase the size of its police force: NYC did by 40% from 1990 to 2000, and their homicide rate went down 80%.
There are three PA bills that we should focus on:
• HB018, may allow municipalities like Pittsburgh or Philly to put some restrictions on firearms, if you read it carefully.
• HB025: Allows cities of first class to pass more gun control ordinances
• HR023: Allows first class cities to pass one gun a month restrictions

If we let these get through we'll lose the state through attrition.

The sad part is Philly was once the capitol of the US and they're acting like that...
I'm so glad I moved out of Philly 17 years ago. I now live in the Suburbs of Philly.
The elected morons of Filthadelphia have ruined the city. I think Philadelphia should apply for Statehood so they can enact their own gun laws. The reason that they wouldn't do that would be that they would go broke in a matter of weeks without all the State funding.
I'd love to see the mass exodus if that happened.
There was a case called Commonwealth v. Ortiz that was heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1996.

Section 6120(a) has been interpreted to preempt local ordinances banning assault weapons. In Ortiz v. Commonwealth, 681 A.2d 152, 155 (Pa. 1996), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania struck down local assault weapon bans in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh under what is now subsection 6120(a) because the court found that the legislature had "denied all municipalities the power to regulate the ownership…transfer or possession of firearms." The court stated that the Pennsylvania Constitution "requires that home rule municipalities…not perform any power denied by" the legislature. Id. The court also noted that firearm regulation is "a matter of concern in all of Pennsylvania," and the legislature "is the proper forum for the imposition of such regulation." Id. at 156.

This isn't going to go anywhere.
A better Question

Would be for these politicians to ask themselves: Why do our ditizens WANT these arms?

Are they using them for crime? Protection? Status? Collectors? If there are 137 firearms related homicides a year maybe they ought to lobby for CCL or go to Vermont style laws instead of tieing up police resources hunting guns.

As shown in the VT murders..disarming your law abiding and decent citizens is a really, really bad idea.
I'm so glad I moved out of Philly 17 years ago. I now live in the Suburbs of Philly.
The elected morons of Filthadelphia have ruined the city. I think Philadelphia should apply for Statehood so they can enact their own gun laws. The reason that they wouldn't do that would be that they would go broke in a matter of weeks without all the State funding.
I'd love to see the mass exodus if that happened.

Same here, moved out 10 years ago, lived in NJ, then moved to the FAR Philly suburbs. Problem is they have to control the animals in Philly from making straw purchases. I don't know a good solution to it, but these laws are not going to to much of anything. Make it a Philly only law, and they will be coming out of the city, into my neighborhood to buy guns. That will just force State Government to make Philly's gun laws, the law of the entire state. We got to guffer because of Philly mismanagement an lack of control of their criminal element.

One thing I'm worried about is the whole then Mayor of Philly Rendel and Gov Tom Ridge debate over CCW state wide. Rendell wanted to ban CCW in the city, but thanks to Ridge I can carry concealed in Philly with my Chester Co. CCW, if it was up to Philly, then I would not be able to carry in the city. Trust me people out of all the places in PA, YOU DEFINATELY NEED TO CARRY IN PHILLY. It is a craphole , but I have a few family members that insist on living there.
The real problem in Philadelphia is that the habitual repeat offenders repeatedly commit violent crimes from the time they are juveniles and the DA plea bargins the charges down to a level where its just probation putting said criminals back in the hood to shoot and kill another day.

Or they dont get caught and arrested because the other folks in the hood saw and heard nothing.

Criminals are the problem, its the same folks over and over again.

To fix the problem people need to step forward and bear witness, and the police need to be a part of the neighborhood so the witnesses can feel that they will be safe and the hoods will be locked up.

Then there is the need for involved parents to stop the hoods from becoming hoods and to make sure they go to school and get an education and a job.
I used to live is the Grays Ferry neighborhood before leaving for school in Indiana. I carried without a license because no one could get one back in 1990 and I never went out without my Walther PP with me. It was a hell-hole. Within two months after arriving in Indiana I had a carry license. When I went back to visit in Philly, I took my Indiana license to the Chester County Sheriff and they issued me a PA license, which was good statewide, including Philadelphia.

The problem with the city is that the 5% city wage tax drives out all the jobs, the people with jobs, and business. What's left is the dregs, or those too old to move out. The corrupt city government spends taxes on fattening the wallets of themselves and their constituencies. City services are neglected, especially police. Unfortunately, we're starting to see something similar here in Indianapolis with the Democrat mayor pandering, neglecting police, and whistling a happy tune while crime soars in the city.
My letter

I have had far to many drinks to be writing a letter tonight, but I am so upset by this, that I just couldnt go to sleep without writing something. I will probably wake up in the morning and edit this letter two or three more times before sending on Monday. I am not sure exactly which bills I need to address in my letter but here it is so far:


RE: Illegal Philadelphia Gun Control

I am very disappointed that the elected officials governing Philadelphia are conducting criminal activities by enacting several gun control laws that directly violate Pennsylvania state law; this is no different than if I violated state law simply because I disagreed with it. The elected officials of Philadelphia should be held to a higher standard than the “ordinary” citizen and should be immediately removed from office and prosecuted for intentionally violating state law.

Including myself, there are five members of my immediate family who are of voting age and we refuse to support any elected official who does not vehemently oppose this blatant disregard of state law. I promise you that we will be closely following this issue, and we will not vote for you or any member of your party unless we can be sure that you will make it your first priority to put a stop to this and prosecute any officials that insist on violating state law.


Unfortunately, we're starting to see something similar here in Indianapolis with the Democrat mayor pandering, neglecting police, and whistling a happy tune while crime soars in the city.

That's a bummer. I took the family up there last weekend to go to your zoo. We spent the night. You've got a great city; pretty, clean, lots to do, great museums, etc. I'd really hate to see it go the way of Philly. I grew up across the river from Philly and it is a hole. I have a few friends left there and almost all of them have been robbed or mugged. Great place. Please don't let that happen to Indy.

"We've got to do something about these legally concealed handguns in the city!" "God forbid a citizen shoots a criminal trying to rob them!!!" :barf:
Hey you can always hit the bad guy with a pretzel and a cheese steak.. After all it's the city of "brotherly" love..
I don't see how Philadelphia can possibly win this. It's against the State Constitution as well as State law.

The antigunners don't see having guns as your right. They find that its easier to pass a law or ordinance they know is illegal, but, for anyone to challenge it would require breaking the law and facing a felony conviction. How many of the good guys are willing to become convicted of a felony to uphold their rights to keep and bear arms, then appeal the conviction on constitutional violation and hope it gets overturned. It costs one time and big $$$$$$$$$$$$. And if they loose in court? Good-bye other rights as well as your gun rights. That's why its always best to fight them in the legislatures and don't allow the laws to pass in the first place.
One post noted that the City Council is accusing the General Assembly of endangering the Philly citizens. I think they have things in reverse, as IIRC the murder rate in Philly is 7x compared to the rest of the state. Does the Council run Philly or the GA?

Somebody is failing, but I don't think it is the GA.
My concern with this legislation isn't that Philly could actually get preemption, but that Fast Eddie Rendell (Gov, and former Philly mayor) will use it as an example of why he needs to work at the state level to get the PA consitution amended. If he accomplishes that, he can pave the way for the changing of gun laws throughout the commonwealth, all in the name of cleaning up Philly.

While I don't like the idea of preemption, I'd rather Philly learn on its own that taking guns out of the hands of lawful citizens will only make things worse. I'd happily stay out of the city during the experiment. Unfortunately, it would probably be impossible to ever get the state constitution changed back.

Maybe if the city acted in violation to state law, and the results proved that doing so made things worse, the outcome could serve to strengthen the resolve of PA state legislators.
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