Gun Groups Take Pittsburgh to Court on Assault-Rifle Ban

Mary Konieczny, right, addresses the City Council during an April 2, 2019, meeting regarding proposed gun restriction legislation in Pittsburgh. The bill, introduced in the wake of the synagogue massacre last October, places restrictions on military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle that authorities say was used in the attack that killed 11 and wounded seven. The council approved the measures 6-3. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PITTSBURGH (CN) — As the mayor of Pittsburgh signed a ban on assault rifles, the city was hit with separate lawsuits Tuesday challenging the new law as unconstitutional.

City council members drafted the new ban on military-style assault rifles following the Oct. 27 massacre where 11 people were killed and another seven wounded at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue.

Rather than banning ownership of the firearms, which Pittsburgh concedes must be regulated by the state, the law at issue hinges on “use,” a term that is said to encompass both the firing of the gun and carrying it loaded in public. Unless stopped by a judge, the law will go into effect in 60 days.

The National Rifle Association and the Firearms Policy Coalition wasted little time in taking the matter to court, filing separate lawsuits today in the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas.

“Pennsylvania law is very clear that the power to regulate firearms is the exclusive province of the General Assembly, not local governments,” attorney David Thompson said in a statement Tuesday through the NRA.

“Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly struck down Pittsburgh ordinances that attempted to regulate firearms in defiance of state law, and we are confident that this latest ordinance will meet the same fate,” Thompson continued, referencing Pittsburgh’s attempt to regulate assault-style rifles more than 20 years ago, which was shut down by state judges who ruled that gun laws must be passed in Harrisburg.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has said he is not worried about defending the new ban in court.

“If Washington and Harrisburg refuse to recognize this is a public health emergency, and refuse to stand up to gun manufacturers, then we must take action to challenge laws and protect our people,” Peduto said in a statement today. 

The FPC’s complaint quotes District Attorney Stephen Zappala as saying that the “City Council does not have the authority to pass such legislation.”

Six of Pittsburgh’s nine city council members voted in favor of the legislation.

The NRA case is Anderson v. Pittsburgh, and the FPC case is Firearm Owners Against Crime v. Pittsburgh.

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