City Delays Enforcement Of Its Controversial Gun Bills

May 20, 2019

The city of Pittsburgh is postponing enforcement of its controversial gun legislation, a move made amid multiple lawsuits surrounding the bills. 

"The city proposed postponing the three gun safety ordinances to assure the quickest court review possible," Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said in an email. "It's been the city's stance all along that the fate of the bills would be decided in court, and today's move was meant to move that process along." 

The move came during a court hearing this morning before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James. It is an early development in what will likely be a protracted court battle.

The laws were introduced in December, just a few weeks after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead. They would ban the use of certain firearms, accessories and ammunition within city limits. Council passed and Peduto signed the bills in April, and they were set to take effect in June. But immediately after they were signed, gun rights supporters - including the NRA, Firearm Owners Against Crime and the Allegheny County Sportsman's League - sued the city. They said that state laws bars local municipalities from creating their own gun laws. 

Jonathan Goldstein is an attorney involved in the NRA's lawsuit. He says Monday's move proves the city's laws are unenforceable. 

"It's an illegal set of ordinances, they know they can't be enforced, they know they don't have the authority to do it," Goldstein said. "And the people of Pittsburgh ought to be demanding answers from their elected officials as to why they're engaged in this fool's errand, wasting time, wasting money and not attending to the people's proper business." 

Goldstein said the city should have gone through the state over these laws. 

"The General Assembly has visited this topic a number of times and appears satisfied that uniform gun laws across this commonwealth are what this commonwealth wants, and what this commonwealth needs," he said. "I think that this effort by Pittsburgh to try to change these laws in the General Assembly is what ... they ought to do, but if they're going to try to do this with local ordinances, they're going to find themselves defeated every time."  

City Councilor Corey O'Connor helped draft the bills. He said Monday's move wasn't a surprise, and that it changed nothing.  

"We basically knew we were going to go down this road," he said. "We're fighting for these laws to be upheld and we know that this is going to be a very long process in doing so."