Where Gun Control Legislation Stands in Pennsylvania

Gun rights and gun control is vigoriously debated in Pennsylvania's State Capitol. Here are some highlights from that ongoing discussion of legislation and constitutional rights.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Angel Cruz stirred the gun control versus gun rights pot earlier this year when he introduced a bill that would require gun owners to register their firearms every year.

They also would be required to pay a $10 registration fee annually.

His bill, according to advocates on both sides of the Second Amendment debate, has zero chance of ever escaping Harrisburg purgatory, also known as legislative committee.

Other bills, however, are winding their way through the committees of the House of Representatives and the state Senate. Here's a look at what types of gun legislation is currently being debated in the State Capitol.


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PREEMPTION LAWS: Pennsylvania, with its two large cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and many small towns and boroughs in between, has been jostling with how much leeway local authorities have to enact legislation that controls firearms. Years ago, Philadelphia passed a package of laws that put strong gun control laws in place. Over the years, courts threw out most of those laws on the basis that they went against state laws. Preemption becomes an issue when the state and a local authority have laws that butt heads. Often, the state wins.

Pittsburgh has more recently, in the aftermath of the synagogue shooting in October last year, tried to enact its own local gun control. Their constitutional standing remains in question because of preemption laws in Pennsylvania.

'PUNITIVE' PREEMPTION: One of the challenges to overturning local gun control measures even in a state with preemption laws has been "standing. That's the legal term for harm that plaintiffs suing over gun control laws at the municipal or county level must prove that laws are doing against them specifically. For instance, if a person wants to sue Philadelphia over a gun control law, that person must first prove that their constitutional rights are being personally infringed upon.

New proposals currently being considered in the Statehouse would give anyone in Pennsylvania, including groups like local chapters of the National Rifle Association, the ability to sue over local gun control laws, according to Shira Goodman of CeasefirePA.

"This is a special standing," she said. "Anyone who lawfully owns a gun can sue any city."

"It's a gift to the NRA and their friends," Goodman added.

REGAINING OWNERSHIP RIGHTS: Some lawmakers are talking through proposals to allow reinstatement of gun ownership after that right was lost due to mental health evaluations.

CONCEALED CARRY: An idea unlikely to get support from law enforcement groups — a key constituency in firearms legislation — is doing away with requiring gun owners to have a concealed carry permit. Instead, gun owners could conceal a firearm on their person without a permit.

ARMING SCHOOL OFFICIALS: A policy by the Schuylkill County school board to train and arm school employees was reinstated in April, but Goodman of CeasefirePA says the debate over its legality — and safety — is far from over. 

RED FLAG LAW: Pennsylvania's first new gun legislation in over a decade was approved by the state legislature in April and requires gun owners subject to a final protection from abuse order or a domestic violence conviction to turn in their firearms within 24 hours. It also bars that person's friends or family from taking possession of those firearms.

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