A bill that would require safe storage of guns and ammunition in homes with children passed out of a committee of Philadelphia City Council on Wednesday without a word of opposition from gun-rights advocates.
But that does not mean pushback isn't coming.
Police Capt. Francis Healy, while saying the Police Department supports the effort, testified that the wording of the bill could prove "problematic and controversial" and that he expected a legal challenge.
"This will be their argument: that this prevents the individual homeowner from getting access to a loaded firearm quick enough to be useful enough to defend himself or his family," Healy said.
The legislation, introduced by Council President Darrell L. Clarke in April, would require all firearms in homes with children under the age of 18 to be kept unloaded and stored in a locked container, with the ammunition in a separate locked container. The exception would be when the firearm or ammunition is in the "immediate control" of a person with a license to carry a gun.
While an earlier version of the bill would have required all firearms also to be equipped with a trigger-locking device, that provision has since been removed.
National Rifle Association spokesman John Hohenwarter said on Wednesday that the association sent no one to testify at Council's hearing because it believes that the law would be unenforceable because of a state preemption that bars local municipalities from passing gun laws.
"It's going to be an ordinance that can't be enforced," Hohenwarter said. "It's Philadelphia up to its old tricks."
The city's Law Department, which has reviewed the legislation, and State Sen. Daylin Leach, who has advocated for municipalities' right to pass their own gun laws, disagree and believe it could be enforced.
"In Philadelphia we see an epidemic of gun violence we may not see in a rural area," Leach said. "And Philadelphia Council people should have the ability to address that."
The bill, which received a favorable recommendation from Council's Public Safety Committee, could be voted on by the full Council as soon as June 16.
The committee Wednesday also approved a bill that would decriminalize certain kinds of disorderly-conduct offenses such as public drunkenness and, ahead of the summer's Democratic National Convention, crimes for which protesters are commonly arrested.
The effort is a sequel to the city's decriminalization of small-amount marijuana possession, a change that Mayor Kenney championed while on Council.
Healy, calling it a matter of fairness, has said he suggested the change on disorderly-conduct offenses after seeing that the Police Department was unintentionally penalizing people more harshly for such offenses than for marijuana possession.
Kenney's administration has also estimated the change would keep 10,000 cases out of the city's criminal justice system each year.