Phila., Lancaster, gun-control advocates sue to invalidate state law

Five Democratic legislators and the cities of Philadelphia and Lancaster have filed suit to block a new state law that greatly expands the ability of gun advocates - including the National Rifle Association - to challenge local attempts to regulate firearms.

The law, passed in late October, gives the NRA legal standing to bring suits against local municipalities that enact their own gun laws and to require those municipalities to bear all legal costs should they lose.

As the result of the law, gun control advocates say, municipalities that attempt to place restrictions on guns could face prohibitively costly court fees should those laws be found legally wanting.

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) called the law a "gift to the NRA."

To Mayor Nutter, it was "legislative madness."

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke summed it up in a word: "Ridiculous."

Gun advocates have countered that the law's only intent is to ensure that local gun ordinances across the state are uniform and comply with state-level laws.

The suit, filed in Commonwealth Court, was brought by Leach and State Sens. Vincent Hughes and Lawrence M. Farnese, both of Philadelphia, and State Reps. Cherelle L. Parker and Edward C. Gainey, both of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia and Lancaster, also plaintiffs, are among roughly 30 municipalities that have enacted local gun laws - most involving mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns - in the six years since an effort to pass statewide gun control laws failed.

Named as defendants were Republican House Speaker Samuel H. Smith, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, and Gov. Corbett.

Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Corbett, said the administration had not seen the suit so would not comment.

The suit challenges the constitutionality of the law, contending that lawmakers violated two clauses in the state constitution to pass the legislation.

The statute's language was added, at the last minute, to a bill designed to address the theft of metals, which opponents say violates the state constitution's requirements that a bill have single subject and not be changed dramatically from its original purpose.

 


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