Facing long odds, a small group of legislators and activists stood up against the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, and today, they were handed a near unanimous ruling by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. On the last day of the 2013-2014 legislative session, the General Assembly sent House Bill 80 – a bill whose primary focus was to deal with the theft of scrap medals – to Governor Corbett’s desk. The only problem was that State Senator Richard Alloway added a poison pill amendment that would allow the NRA and other gun rights groups to sue, and profit, off of any municipalities’ gun ordinance. The former governor signed the bill days after he was handed a double digit defeat.
Some of the more notable lawsuits in the wake of this bill were filed against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Lancaster cities, but the bill had a chilling effect on smaller municipalities who could not afford the court costs for that particular township or the gun rights groups bringing on those lawsuits. At a capitol press conference, State Senator Daylin Leach, main defendant in this lawsuit, told reporters that this law “was nothing more than an attempt to extort municipalities to repeal all of their gun laws, and it worked.” House Representative and Congressional Candidate Steve Santarsiero explained how Lower Makefeild Township in Bucks County had to change its ordinance that prevented gun owners from bringing guns to their public parks. He stated “in my town of Lower Makefeild, you cannot smoke in a public playground. You can’t smoke there, but you can carry a gun” because the township was worried that they would be sued by some gun nut organization.
The Commonwealth Court ruled that Act 192 was unconstitutional because it violated the state’s single subject and original purpose clauses by a 6-1 and 7-0 decision.
This means that the Amendment that Senator Alloway threw into House Bill 80 had nothing to do with stiffening penalties for people who steal copper, aluminum or other secondary scrap medals.
The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the amendment which means it could still become law if the General Assembly were to peruse it or appeal it to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
These scenarios are highly unlikely. The stand alone legislation would have to make it through the sausage making process and Governor Wolf would have to sign it, which will not happen. Or, if Republican Leadership were to appeal to the State Supreme Court, but with a 7-0 and 6-1 ruling, there’s no chance that will happen.
All current lawsuits against cities under Act 192 and cases waiting for the outcome of today’s Commonwealth Court are dropped. Lawsuits that concluded before today’s decision and that were ruled in favor of gun rights groups, well, they still get to keep that municipalities tax dollars and it would be next to impossible for them to recoup that money because the lawsuit was against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not the NRA.
Leave it to Daylin Leach with this quote:
“To paraphrase Monty Python, this law is no more. Breath of life, rest in peace. This is an ex law.”
— Steve McCarter (@RepMcCarter) June 25, 2015