Gun groups threaten to sue Pennsylvania city over ‘illegal’ gun ordinances

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), seen here in this file image, signed HB80 into law Tuesday. (Photo: Commonwealth Media)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), signed HB80 into law on Oct. 28, giving third parties the ability to sue over local gun ordinances. (Photo: Commonwealth Media)

After being given an opening by the governor of Pennsylvania in October, several gun rights groups on Tuesday doubled down on threats to sue the state capital over what are being called illegal local gun ordinances.

Harrisburg’s local ordinances enact stricter punishment than state law and need to be repealed, said Prince Law Offices, the legal team representing several gun rights groups — the Firearms Industry Consulting Group, American Gun Owners Alliance, Concerned Gun Owners of Pennsylvania, Firearm Owners Against Crime and Pennsylvania For Self Protection — in their threat against the city.

“(W)hile some claim that such ordinances and regulations are in the best interest of the public, they have failed to show any statistical data that such ordinances and regulations deter/prevent crime or that other state level crimes, enacted by the General Assembly, are insufficient for prosecution,” read a post on the law firm’s blog.

In a Dec. 14 letter to the city, FICG chief counsel Joshua Prince offered his detailed argument for the illegality of the Harrisburg ordinances.

The mayor’s office could not be reached for comment on whether it is expecting to defend the ordinances in court, but Mayor Eric Papenfuse has previously said he wouldn’t repeal the regulations, which he and Harrisburg police believe are in the public’s best interest.

“I support the responsible use of firearms,” Papenfuse told the Patriot-News. “I actually see middle ground here. I feel there’s a distinction between law-abiding gun owners and anyone that would want to sue the municipality about a reckless discharge ordinance, especially given the violence we have in the city. I think it’s completely irresponsible.”

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed HB80, also referred to as Act 192, into law Oct. 28, allowing third parties to sue municipalities like Harrisburg over local gun codes deemed stronger than the state’s.

It’s unknown if the city — said to be in financial dire straits — can handle lengthy legal proceedings, but unlike other cities similarly affected by the HB80, it is self-insured, the Patriot-News reported.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh sued the state last month over the constitutionality of the law, while others have repealed their gun ordinances after their insurance companies informed them of the risk.

The National Rifle Association at the time called the bill “the strongest firearms preemption statute in the country” and a “much-needed protection for gun owners in the Keystone State.”

The Harrisburg Police Department accepted a $50,000 donation from the NRA Foundation on Dec. 18 as a thank you for the community support it received during the Great American Outdoor Show the gun lobby group took over sponsorship for in February. 

Papenfuse told the Patriot-News he wasn’t invited to accept the check because he told the NRA his attendance would be in the name of opposing the law the group so stalwartly supported. Papenfuse also criticized the NRA for drawing $63,000 in hotel tax money from Dauphin County for the trade show.

“Why do they need subsidized,” Papenfuse told the Patriot-News. “It’s another example of irresponsible use of county hotel tax money. Within the context of the public safety crisis we have in this city, it’s exactly what we don’t need.”