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Major NRA Defeat: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Overturns State Law that Allowed Gun Lobby to Sue Cities at Taxpayer Expense; Lawsuits Against Cities Over Local Gun Laws Rejected


Lancaster, PA – Today, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, is applauding the decision of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court that struck down Act 192 – a major defeat for the National Rifle Association. The law allowed outside lobby groups – such as the Virginia-based National Rifle Association – to sue Pennsylvania municipalities over local gun laws, and would have forced taxpayers to pay their legal fees.

The NRA-backed “punitive preemption” bill was aimed at intimidating local officials from passing sensible laws designed to reduce gun violence in their communities. When the NRA attempted to pass the gun provisions as a stand-alone bill, it failed in the legislature. Only by grafting the gun provisions onto an entirely unrelated bill at the eleventh hour of the legislative session — a bill that regulated the theft of metals like copper wire — could the NRA get the gun provisions through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Today, the Commonwealth Court ruled that these unlawful and irregular legislative tactics violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. The loss comes after previous attempts by the NRA to pass similar punitive preemption bills failed in Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee.

Statement from J. Richard Gray, Mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a member of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns:

“Today is a major victory for communities and taxpayers in Pennsylvania and marks a major loss for National Rifle Association. Act 192 was a plainly unconstitutional piece of legislation that grafted a give-away to the gun lobby onto a bill regulating stolen copper wire, and was rammed through in the waning moments of the legislative session. But, today, the Commonwealth Court rejected the NRA’s unlawful legislative tactics. When the NRA tried to pass this unprecedented gun policy as a stand-alone bill, it failed, and they passed it through the legislature only after resorting to a backhanded and unconstitutional procedure. Act 192 would have hampered local efforts to reduce gun violence and, worse yet, would have forced Pennsylvania taxpayers to foot the bill for special interest lawsuits challenging firearm ordinances that aim to make Pennsylvania communities safer. The NRA should take note that these kinds of measures fly in the face of public safety and will get rejected in states around the country.”

Statement from Adam Skaggs, Senior Counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety:

“Today’s decision underscores the hypocrisy of the gun lobby. While the NRA has made it nearly impossible to sue gun makers and dealers – by getting Congress to grant them immunity – they’ve worked across the country to let gun lobby groups sue cities that have adopted common-sense gun laws designed to reduce gun violence in their communities. That is, at the same time the NRA is using one hand to slam the courthouse doors shut for the victims of gun violence, they are using the other hand to pry the courthouse door wide open for the gun lobby to sue cities and municipal leaders who try to reduce gun violence.”

In February, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns filed a friend of the court — or “amicus” — brief supporting the lawsuit challenging Act 192. The lawsuit was brought by several members of the Pennsylvania Legislature and the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster. Found here, the amicus brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of mayors of 196 cities, townships, and boroughs across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The brief explained that, by combining a bill regulating stolen copper wire with provisions granting gun lobby groups special power to sue municipalities over local gun rules, Act 192 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution’s requirement that legislation have only a single subject. The brief details how Act 192 hindered the ability of local leaders to carry out basic public safety measures — and even worse, how it punished taxpaying citizens with onerous and punitive financial penalties when cities take action to confront gun violence.