Philadelphia suing Pennsylvania over gun laws

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The city of Philadelphia is suing Pennsylvania, saying the state Legislature refuses “to enact statewide gun safety laws” and prevents local jurisdictions from implementing their own laws.

The lawsuit specifically targets the state’s Firearm Preemption Laws. By “enacting and continuing to ratify” the laws, the state Legislature “has increased gun violence in these municipalities, and they have affirmatively endangered the lives, health and safety” of the lawsuit’s individual petitioners.

CeaseFirePA and residents from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh who have lost family members in shootings joined the city in the lawsuit, filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

“This action today sends a clear message – we are fed up with the Commonwealth’s continued insistence on handcuffing local governments on gun control,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “Two years ago we declared gun violence a public health emergency and our City agencies have implemented proven approaches to reduce gun violence.

“But until state lawmakers stop blocking local governments from enacting and enforcing common sense gun laws, our fight for violence reduction and meaningful gun reform will not end,” Kenney added. “This lawsuit is a big step in that direction.”

The lawsuit seeks to vacate the Firearm Preemption Laws and declare that the state government has “violated the inherent and indefeasible right to enjoy and defend life and liberty” under the state constitution. In addition to the commonwealth and the general assembly, the lawsuit names House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson County.

Gun violence is up this year in Philadelphia, much like it is in other cities nationwide. According to city figures, the number of shootings is up 57 percent over 2019, and the number of “shooting victims” is 47 percent higher than a year ago.

City officials say shootings “disproportionately impact low income and minority communities,” according to a news release.

“We have far too many guns on the streets of Philadelphia, including the kinds of high-powered assault weapons used in war,” Council President Darrell Clarke said in a statement. “If the Pennsylvania General Assembly refuses to do anything to help us protect our citizens, then they should not have the right to prevent us from taking the kinds of actions we know we need to keep our residents safe from harm.”

Democrats in the state House welcomed the lawsuit.

“Philadelphia and municipalities across the state took action tragedy after tragedy on behalf of the residents they serve when the state would not, only to be met with callous laws specifically designed to prevent them from doing so,” state Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, said in a statement. “I am equally tired of the hallow promises to help reduce gun violence being made by the Republican majority following each tragedy. They hold the power to move the commonsense gun safety legislation we put forward. Yet, they continue to deny people that opportunity.”

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