After months of debate, hearings and protest, Pittsburgh's controversial gun legislation is officially on the books. Mayor Bill Peduto signed gun control bills which, if allowed to go into effect, would ban the use of some kinds of weaponry within city limits. But the city may well have to win a legal standoff with gun-rights advocates before that can happen.
"The four bills are now law," Peduto said at a signing ceremony held in his conference room in the City-County Building.
Supporters of the measure applauded the announcement. Among them were members of City Council majority that backed the legislation: Ricky Burgess, Deb Gross, Bruce Kraus, Daniel Lavelle, Corey O'Connor, and Erika Strassbuger.
— Ariel Worthy (@airreeulll) April 9, 2019
Three council members voted no, arguing the city doesn't have the legal authority to pass such measures: Anthony Coghill, Theresa Kail-Smith, and Darlene Harris. Peduto acknowledged a court fight was in store.
"If we didn't challenge laws, women wouldn't be able to vote," he said after the signing. He said the city would be represented in court by lawyers with Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun-control advocacy group.
The legislative package was introduced in December, while the city was still mourning the deaths of congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
Taken together, the bills originally proposed a total ban on assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and other accessories within city limits. Another bill spelled out procedures for removing guns from those identified by a judge as an "extreme risk" to themselves or others.
Gun-rights advocates have denounced the legislation, and noted that state law bars local municipalities from passing their own gun laws. Those objections prompted City Council to amend the bills, so that they bar not the mere possession, but actual use of the weapons. Councilors who backed the bills said the city could do so because state law says nothing about banning the use of weapons.
A city ordinance already bans the discharge of firearms within the city. But the new ordinances go further, by defining "use" to include such activities as merely loading an assault weapon or "brandishing" it with the intention of intimidating others.
Reaction from gun-rights activists was rapid. "The City of Pittsburgh has completed the process of crimniality and signed into law the illegal ordinances," tweeted Firearm Owners Against Crime, a Second Amendment advocacy group, moments after the signing.
The National Rifle Association has pledged to sue the city over the bills: In fact, it prematurely announced that it had already done so last week, before the ordinances were even signed. Barring intervention by a court, the ordinances are slated to go into effect within 60 days.