Thursday, March 20, 2014

PA: Scofflaw Governments May be Held to Account in PA

Pennsylvania has a state preemption statute that prevents local governments from creating a crazy patchwork of local firearm laws.  Such a patchwork would effectively chill the exercise of second amendment rights in the State.  From the Pennsylvania statutes:
(a)  General rule.--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.
The problem is that there are no teeth to the law, because there are no penalties imposed on local governments who violate it.   Consequently, there are over fifty local scofflaw governments in Pennsylvania.   From
State firearms preemption was enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature to avoid the possibility of 2,639 separate firearm laws across the Commonwealth.  However, over recent years, nearly fifty local governments have enacted gun control ordinances in violation of the current state firearms preemption law.
House Bill 2011 has been proposed to remedy the situation.  It is the lastest version of similar bills that have been put forward over the last four years.
 Representative Mark Keller, R-Landisburg has sponsored the measure.  From
"Local governments have been passing ordinances regulating firearms in defiance of the state's Crimes Code, resulting in confusion for gun owners who don't know they are breaking the law," Keller said. "The end result is that citizens can be forced to incur significant expenses to hire attorneys to challenge these illegal and unconstitutional ordinances. My bill would correct the problem."
 The bill went from committee to the House yesterday, the 18th of March.

Florida had a similar problem, and solved it with legislation that made local leaders personally accountable, and allowed for the recovery of legal costs.  This bill would not go as far.   It has no provision to apply penalties to local leaders.

The new law avoids the loophole that was found in Ohio's preemption law.  In Ohio, cities would wait until second amendment supporters spent time and legal resources to force a local government to repeal a law.  Then, just as it became clear that the second amendment supporters would win in court, the city repealed the law, allowing them no opportunity to collect their legal fees.

In HB 2011, if the law is repealed after a local government has been sued, they still have to pay the legal fees.  Of course, early in the process, legal fees are much reduced over what they would be if the case were contested in the courts.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

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