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Commonwealth Court Ruling On Harrisburg Gun Laws Could Set Pittsburgh's Efforts Back

 A hand holds a gun at a gun store where other firearms are displayed.
Keith Srakocic

Last week, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that gun rights groups like Firearms Owners Against Crime and the National Rifle Association can challenge some local gun ordinances in court. 

Firearms Owners Against Crime challenged the city of Harrisburg's gun ordinances, which included a requirement to report lost or stolen guns within 48 hours of discovery, and a ban on the public use of firearms, unless they are used for self-defense. 

Kim Stolfer is president of FOAC. He said the ruling was long overdue. 
“It also highlights the problem we have with how government reacts to this. They call you out, they force you to go prove you have standing,” he said. “It takes a lot of money and a lot time just to hold government accountable for violating the law. ... This is another prime example of how difficult they make it for citizens to ensure that their rights aren’t violated.” 
The city of Pittsburgh also has an ordinance that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours. It was also challenged in court, but was thrown out because plaintiffs could not prove that they'd been harmed by the ordinance.

The court's most recent ruling could mean that a similar challenge might succeed this time. But Stolfer said FOAC will not challenge Pittsburgh on its lost-and-stolen ordinance. He says that lawsuit filed against the city over additional gun ordinances in April will prevail, and "by virtue of the victory, they will have to repeal them" and the lost-and-stolen ordinance too.

On Wednesday, at a rally outside of McCandless Crossing in McCandless Township, gun control advocacy groups including Progress PA and CeaseFirePA called for state Republican Rep. Mike Turzai to take a tougher stand and call for more reasonable gun laws and push for universal background checks. During the rally, Rob Conroy with CeaseFirePA said it’s yet to be seen if the recent court ruling will be good or bad for Pittsburgh, but he wants the city to "stand strong" in their defense of the gun laws. 

"I certainly hope that the officials in Pittsburgh read that [case] and talk among themselves and with the people representing them, and figure out exactly how that might affect them," Conroy said. 

Earlier this year the NRA and Firearms Owners Against Crime filed a lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh for its gun ordinances that ban the use of assault-style firearms, accessories and ammunition within the city, saying they have no legal authority to do so since gun laws are a state, not local, issue. Representatives from the group could not be reached for comment. 

A representative from Mayor Bill Peduto's office said they could not comment on legal matters, "other than to note that the enforcement of the Pittsburgh ordinances are under a court-ordered stay" because of the lawsuits.