Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Gun Bans: Court Reminds Local Governments They Lack Authority to Restrict Guns

Friday, December 23, 2016

Gun Bans: Court Reminds Local Governments They Lack Authority to Restrict Guns

Pennsylvania's Uniform Firearms Act (UFA), section 6120(a), directs that "[n]o county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms . . . ." 18 Pa. C.S. § 6120(a). 

The UFA rests on the legal concept of "preemption," in which a higher level of government – the state –expressly restricts the power or law-making authority it grants to its political subdivisions. This law, like similar laws in 45 states, was enacted to eliminate the inconsistent and confusing regulatory hodge-podge that results when each locality adopts its own “customized” regulations on guns, and serves to ensure that the firearm laws remain uniform across a state. Previous court cases interpreting Pennsylvania’s law – including a lawsuit brought by the NRA against the City of Philadelphia – have invalidated local gun-control measures including prohibitions on the possession, transfer and sale of "assault weapons."

Despite this and the clear language of the UFA, in 2011, Lower Merion Township in Pennsylvania adopted an ordinance, Code § 109-16. The ordinance, allegedly based on the need to enhance the safety of Township residents and the public’s use and enjoyment of local parks, prohibited persons from “carry[ing] or discharg[ing] firearms of any kind in a park without a special permit, unless exempted,” and punished violators with a penalty of up to $600.00 for each violation. The only exemption applied to “authorized members of the Police Department.”

A group, Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), initially approached the Township to repeal the ordinance, based on state preemption. The Township declined, relying on its rights as a property owner and claiming the ordinance was consistent with the UFA preemption language because it only prohibited the unlawful possession of firearms in parks, allowing for possession with a “special permit.”

In the ensuing litigation challenging the validity of the ordinance, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, in a 2-1 decision, reversed a 2015 trial court decision and enjoined enforcement of the ordinance. Firearm Owners Against Crime v. Lower Merion Township, No. 1693 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. 16, 2016). 

The court rejected the claim that the ordinance was within the authority of a municipality regulating the use of its own property. The underlying basis for the ordinance was the Township’s police power, not proprietary rights, because the ordinance imposed a criminal penalty and authorized officers to enforce the ordinance by removing and prosecuting violators. More generally, the UFA explicitly prohibited a township from regulating firearms “in any manner,” without an exemption that would authorize the township to make rules for its park property.

The court also gave short shrift to the claim that the UFA did not preempt a municipality’s regulation of unlawful firearm possession. Earlier court precedent on the preemption law “prohibits this Court from endorsing the argument that a cognizable distinction exists between regulating lawful activity and unlawful activity.” Even assuming otherwise, the ordinance did not come within the supposed exception. It regulated possession that was not already unlawful under state law – there was “no corresponding provision in the Crimes Code that contained such a blanket ban of firearm possession in a park” – and the Township could not create its own class of unlawful conduct with which to justify the ordinance.

The ordinance was not consistent with the UFA, and “because there are no apparently reasonable grounds for the trial court’s decision,” the Commonwealth Court reversed the lower court ruling. The upshot is that in Pennsylvania, the General Assembly, not municipal councils, is the proper forum for the imposition of firearm regulations.

TRENDING NOW
Indiana: Important Self-Defense Bill Passes Legislature, On to Governor

Monday, April 22, 2019

Indiana: Important Self-Defense Bill Passes Legislature, On to Governor

On April 22nd, both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly voted to concur with the amendments made to House Bill 1284 during the conference committee process.  HB 1284 has been amended to now include many ...

News  

Monday, April 22, 2019

With Proposed Federal Legislation, Anti-gun Advocates Seek to Impose May-Issue Gun Ownership

In 1987, only ten states had concealed carry laws that treated the Right-to-Carry in a manner consistent with our constitutional right to bear arms. Understanding that the whims and prejudices of government officials are incompatible ...

Nevada: Gun Control Bills Pass Assembly

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Nevada: Gun Control Bills Pass Assembly

On April 23rd, the Nevada Assembly voted to pass Assembly Bill 291 and Assembly Bill 153.   AB 291 and AB 153 have been transmitted to the Senate and assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee for ...

California: DOJ Issues “Notice of Modification” to Proposed Ammunition Background Check Regulations

Thursday, April 18, 2019

California: DOJ Issues “Notice of Modification” to Proposed Ammunition Background Check Regulations

Today, the California Department of Justice issued a “Notice of Modification” to their proposed regulations regarding the soon to be implemented ammunition background check procedures. As a result of these changes, a second 15-day public ...

President to Speak at 148th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 26

News  

Monday, April 22, 2019

President to Speak at 148th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 26

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will address NRA members at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Leadership Forum on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The complete list of ...

New York Times Admits Privately-Funded “Gun Violence” Research is a Thing

News  

Friday, April 19, 2019

New York Times Admits Privately-Funded “Gun Violence” Research is a Thing

The New York Times – the “paper of record” – reports that “Gun Research is Suddenly Hot.” While we’re happy to see the Times has finally acknowledged that “gun research” can survive federal restrictions on taxpayer funded gun control ...

Heeee’s Baaack: Bill Clinton Peddles Gun Control on a Wish and a Lie

News  

Friday, April 19, 2019

Heeee’s Baaack: Bill Clinton Peddles Gun Control on a Wish and a Lie

Proving there is no statute of limitations on political opportunism, this week former President Bill Clinton used the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the tragic school shooting in Littleton, Colo. to pen an op-ed pushing ...

NRA Supporting Challenge to Washington State Release of Gun Owner's Private Data

News  

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

NRA Supporting Challenge to Washington State Release of Gun Owner's Private Data

The NRA is supporting a challenge to Washington State's plan to release names and addresses of those who participated in the state’s bump stock buy-back program.  

Maine: Firearm Seizure Bill Heads To Judiciary Committee

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Maine: Firearm Seizure Bill Heads To Judiciary Committee

On April 22nd, the Maine Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Legislative Document 1312, which would allow for firearms to be seized and Second Amendment rights to be suspended without due process. 

President Donald J. Trump will  Address NRA Members at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis, Indiana

News  

Friday, April 5, 2019

President Donald J. Trump will Address NRA Members at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis, Indiana

FAIRFAX, Va.— President Donald Trump will address NRA members at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Leadership Forum on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is the third consecutive year that President Trump will deliver the keynote address at the NRA-ILA ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.