Municipal gun ordinance preemption bill clears House committee

Municipal gun ordinance preemption bill clears House committee

Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, September 20, 2016/Categories: News and Views

Legislation that would largely reenact the municipal gun ordinance preemption provisions of Act 192 of 2014 overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.


The bill, House Bill 2258, would grant standing to Pennsylvania residents who are lawfully able to possess a firearm and membership organizations representing a similarly situated individual to challenge municipal gun ordinances they believe are preempted by state law.


Passed as part of Act 192, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this June declared the law unconstitutional on procedural grounds since it violated the single subject requirement of the Pennsylvania constitution.


Prime sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry) said the procedural versus substantive grounds that were the basis of the Supreme Court’s holding is an important distinction.


“It’s very clear why the courts threw Act 192 out and it’s not because of this particular law, it’s because of the single subject matter,” he said. “That needs to be noted. The law itself is not unconstitutional, it’s the way it was put through.”


The bill is largely identical to the similar provision in Act 192, except that it includes a 30-day written notice requirement on behalf of the plaintiff to the municipality to give the municipality time to adjust its ordinances so as not to be potentially violative of state law, something Rep. Keller said was added to do away “with the gotcha mentality” some were having about the law when it was enacted.


According to Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), the 30-day period might not be enough time for municipalities to respond.


“In the context of my own municipality, I know 30 days would not give my municipality time enough to respond,” she said. “When you consider sunshine and publication, I ask for consideration that 30 days might not be enough.”


Rep. Dean also questioned whether the broad standing requirements could make it such that ISIS could challenge gun ordinances in Pennsylvania.


That contention brought the ire of some members.


“I think it’s ridiculous to even take it that far, it’s a stretch,” Rep. Mike Regan (R-Cumberland) told the committee in response.


The bill did enjoy broad bipartisan support, with several members of the Democratic caucus saying the legislation is necessary to protect citizens who might not be aware of stricter gun requirements in some communities and to ensure the uniformity of the enforcement of state law.


“They’re disobeying the law by doing their own will,” said Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny). “If we let this go, and we let cell phone [enforcement] go, you go community to community and you are in a motor republic and you have no idea what the law is in that local community.”


Rep. Keller told reporters that while leadership has not told him whether his bill will run in the remaining session days this fall, he thinks the signs are pointing in the right direction that something will get done, especially since the Senate is slated to work on a similar bill when they return to session next week.


Despite the overwhelming support in committee, it looks like the proposal is going to need a veto-proof majority in both chambers in order to stand a chance at becoming law.


As of Tuesday afternoon, the governor’s office confirmed the governor is still opposed to the language in the current form of the bill.


“While the bill still must work its way through the legislative process, the governor has stated he is opposed to the legislation in its current form,” said spokesperson Mark Nicastre.


The legislation can be considered by the full House as soon as next week.