Philadelphia, January 14, 2015 — CeaseFirePA applauds the City of Harrisburg for standing firm against threats of litigation and attempts to muzzle local public officials who have fulfilled their oaths to act to protect their communities. In the face of a hastily pushed-through law that elevates the interests of the gun lobby and its lawyers over Pennsylvania towns and citizens, Harrisburg clearly stood up for the duties of our cities to do right by their communities. As a result of Harrisburg’s strong stand, it has been rewarded with the first lawsuit filed under the newly passed Act 192. Today, Harrisburg was joined by three cities as the National Rifle Association — probably unhappy to have lost the race to the courthouse — filed suit against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster.
Act 192 is an unprecedented assault on the rights of local officials and citizens to choose the best path to protect their communities. Now, people who have not in any way been impacted by local regulations can sue towns – and bring in out-of-state organizations to sue on their behalf – simply because they don’t like those local ordinances. Not only that, the new law permits a winning plaintiff to recover its costs and attorney fees; however, if a city prevails in such a suit, it cannot recover costs from the plaintiff. Accordingly, “the Pennsylvania chapter” of a Texas-based gun group has now sued Harrisburg – for requiring gun owners to notify the police if their guns are lost or stolen, for regulating the carrying and discharge of firearms in the City, including in City parks, and for making rules about carrying firearms during states of emergency. The NRA’s suits against the three other cities challenge similar ordinances, including lost and stolen reporting requirements and limits on carrying on municipal property.
Last fall, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Act 192. And earlier this year, Harrisburg made clear that it would not be intimidated by the threat of litigation and would stand behind the local ordinances it had enacted. “We applaud the leadership shown by these cities and hope other towns will follow their example,” said Shira Goodman, CeaseFirePA Executive Director. “Not only do we believe these cities have a very good chance of prevailing in the new suits, but we believe this litigation may become moot when the Commonwealth Court rules on the pending suit challenging the constitutionality of Act 192.”
Municipalities across Pennsylvania are being threatened with litigation. As residents of these towns realize the practical effect of the new law, there has been outrage and dismay that our state senators and representatives put dedicated local public officials into the position of choosing between doing what they believe is necessary to protect public safety and what they fear is necessary to protect the public fisc.
“We want to be clear,” said Goodman. “This new law has nothing to do with protecting individual rights. It was a gift to the gun lobby and a fee-generating scheme for the gun lobby’s lawyers. And it comes on the backs of the taxpayers of our towns –towns who took action to protect their communities in the face of the state’s continued inaction on the problem of gun violence.”
CeaseFirePA will continue to fight Act 192 and all efforts to hamstring our towns and will work with the dedicated mayors, town councils and citizens who simply want to protect their communities.