Ask any Pennsylvania about the hunting and gun culture in our state and they will have plenty of personal stories and anecdotes to tell you. Pennsylvania has a long history of valuing the right to bear arms and an equally long history of hunting, both for sport and for sustenance. It is perhaps for this reason that the law of the State of Pennsylvania has long prohibited any of its municipalities from enforcing their own unique regulations on firearms. In fact, Pennsylvania law prohibits municipalities from regulating almost every aspect of gun ownership. Municipalities do not have a say in gun ownership, possession, transportation, or transfer of either guns or ammunition. This prohibition has been in place for about forty years, however some municipalities have ignored the long-standing law. Gun rights advocates say its time to put that to an end.
In order to enforce the prohibition on municipality regulation, a new law went into effect at the beginning of 2015. The law, at its core, makes it less complicated for gun rights advocates to challenge the municipalities that do attempt to regulate gun ownership. The new measure will allow gun owners to bring suit against municipalities who attempt to regulate, even without demonstrating that they have been individually harmed. This is an uncommon measure as the legal concept of standing almost universally means that the plaintiff must have suffered harm from the act they bring suit over. The new law also redefines standing in another way, by allowing organizations to bring suit on behalf of their members. Traditionally an organization can usually only sue on behalf of members when the members, themselves, would be permitted to bring suit. In practice, this means that organizations such as the National Rifle Association could sue on behalf of their Pennsylvania members. Florida has a similar law in place.
While the law certainly has a strong following of supporters, not all Pennsylvanians are happy with the legislation. Currently the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster have sued to have the law overturned, alleging that the law was passed improperly. This suit is pending. The pending status of this legal challenge has not deterred many other municipalities from acting. As attorney for four gun rights groups put almost 100 municipalities on notice of legal action based on the new legislation. So far, at least 22 municipalities have responded to the threat of legal action by stating that they would overturn their own firearm regulations. Some cities have stated that they will not be overturning their regulations despite any new state law. For example, Harrisburg representatives have stated that their laws, which consist of banning gunfire in the city and banning weapons possession in the city, comport with state law. Others have claimed they will not overturn any regulation until the current lawsuit has been settled.
At Brownstone Law we support the rights of Pennsylvania gun owners and hope for a safe resolution for all.
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