Frankenstein Gun-Rights Law Chucked in PA

     HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court voided a law that began as an attempt to criminalize the theft of copper and ended up a windfall to gun enthusiasts.
     House Bill 80 was just two pages when introduced in January 2013. It penalized the theft of secondary metals, such as copper, aluminum, or wire and cable used by utilities and transportation agencies.
     Nearly two years later when time Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law as Act 192, however, it had four substantive provisions addressing: “trespass for the purpose of unlawfully taking secondary metal from the premises; theft of secondary metal as an independent offense; state police disclosure of records; and standing for individuals or organizations to challenge local gun regulations.”
     Act 192’s latter component had the practical effect of creating standing for people to sue municipalities whose gun-control laws affected them.
     The law drew a lawsuit led by the cities Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster.
     Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders, including Corbett’s successor Gov. Tom Wolf, appealed when the Commonwealth Court declared Act 192 unconstitutional.
     The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Monday.
     “Our sole concern is whether Act 192 comports with Article III, Section 3’s mandate that each bill contain but one subject,” Chief Justice Thomas Saylor wrote for the court. “For the reasons given, we hold that it does not satisfy that requirement. As the Commonwealth Court suggested, creating a civil cause of action for persons affected by local gun regulations is simply too far afield from the definition of new offenses relating to the theft of secondary metal to be considered part of one subject under Article III, Section 3.1.”
     Saylor emphasized that court sees “no reasonable basis” mash metals theft and trespass with the regulation of firearms.
     “Even if we accept, arguendo, that a conviction of such offenses may impinge upon the defendant’s ability to own a firearm under federal law, any connection to firearms predicated on that basis is simply too indirect and attenuated to allow the secondary metal offenses reasonably to fall within the proposed subject,” the opinion states.
     Saylor said the ruling should not be interpreted as a “judicial evaluation of the wisdom or permissibility of legislative bargaining or dealmaking.”
     The Supreme Court therefore, ruled that the two issues had little-to-nothing in common and should not appear in the same bill.
     Justices Baer, Todd, Donohue, Dougherty and Wecht concurred. The opinion notes that former Justice Eakin did not participate in the decision, and that the National Rifle Association supported the state’s appeal as a friend of the court.

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