Gun Owners of America Sues to Block Philadelphia Mayor’s Illegal Recreation Facilities Gun Ban


Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Maybe Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney thinks Pennsylvania’s preemption law somehow works differently on the east side of the state than it does in Western Pennsylvania. He’s apparently under the impression that by instituting his own gun control laws by diktat via an executive order — rather than passing city ordinances, which haven’t survived  — he can skirt the state’s prohibition on cities limiting gun rights beyond what’s been done in Harrisburg.

Whatever he Mayor’s “thought process” — and we can assure you it involves healthy amounts of cynicism, disregard for the law, and a desire to gin up “I’m doing something!” headlines in the Philadelphia Inquirer — he signed an executive order yesterday “banning guns and deadly weapons from the city’s indoor and outdoor recreation spaces including parks, basketball courts and pools.”

He took the plainly illegal action after attending a funeral for a woman who was killed in the crossfire when a 14-year-old opened fire on another group outside a city rec center. Philly’s on a record-shattering pace for shootings and firearm-related deaths this year.

Is it possible he actually thinks a prohibition on lawful gun owners carrying firearms in and around “recreation spaces” would have prevented that 14-year-old (who was already breaking who-knows-how-many laws) from opening fire and killing the woman? Can he really be that deluded and clueless?

Of course not. He knows better. He also knows Philly’s had its own previous attempts to restrict the lawful carry of firearms struck down under the preemption law. And he knows it happened when Pittsburgh tried the same thing.

Mayor Kenney just doesn’t give a damn. He’s daring the courts to do it again, hoping a sympathetic judge will somehow divine a way around the preemption law somewhere in the emanations and penumbras of the state statue. While he’s apparently desperate and frustrated, though, the prospects for a different outcome this time because of his executive order ploy aren’t good, particularly in a post-Bruen world.

From the AP . . .

Joshua Prince, an attorney who has represented people challenging other local gun ordinances across the state, said he doesn’t think it makes a difference if the restriction is passed as an ordinance or issued as an executive order. He said the restriction is still unlawful under state law.

“That (property owner) argument has lost twice in cases I have litigated,” Prince said, noting cases in Erie and Lower Merion Township in Pennsylvania. “I think it needs to be said in discussing the death of an innocent bystander, that the current felonies on the books did not dissuade that criminal from taking that life. How is a summary offense (trespassing) going to dissuade a criminal when a felony charge does not?”

Pennsylvania’s preemption statute — which says no local government can regulate lawful ownership, transportation or transfer of firearms that is not specifically prohibited by state law — is one of many such laws that have been passed across the country. According to the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, more than 40 states have passed some form of a preemption law.

You don’t say.

Gun Owners of America sued to block Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto’s illegal gun laws and now they’ve quickly stepped in to force the issue in Philadelphia. GOA cracked back almost immediately yesterday, filing suit to block any enforcement of Kenney’s order. The GOA put is succinctly . . .

13. It is “crystal clear” that only the General Assembly is permitted to regulate frearms. See Nat’l. RifeAss’n., 977 A.2d at 82. Further, in 2016, the Commonwealth Court also explicitly struck similar restrictions on carry at public parks due to Pennsylvania’s firearms preemption statute. See Lower Merion Twp., 151 A.3d 1172.

14. The Mayor’s September 27th Executive Order directly regulates the lawful possession of firearms in violation of § 6120 (a).

15. Therefore, the September 27th Executive Order violates Pennsylvania’s firearms preemption statutes and may not be enforced. See 18 Pa. C.S. § 6120.

Here’s GOA’s press release . . .

Yesterday, lame-duck Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order prohibiting individuals from lawful carry at all City of Philadelphia recreational facilities. The mayor’s actions are in clear violation of Pennsylvania law prohibiting these types of local gun restrictions. Within hours of Mayor Kenney’s signing ceremony, Gun Owners of America (GOA) filed a lawsuit to enjoin enforcement of this illegal gun regulation.

“Mayor Kenney knows this executive order is pointless: law abiding gun owners aren’t the people committing the violent crime and murder in Philadelphia,” said Dr. Val Finnell, Pennsylvania Director for GOA. “Instead, Mayor Kenney is trying to deflect attention from his failing policies and failing City by enacting more ‘feel good’ regulations that scapegoat guns for the crisis of crime in Philadelphia. Rather than take responsibility for city policies that created two years of record homicides, Kenney is attempting to capitalize on the tragic deaths of Philadelphia residents to disarm more people and create more victim-only, ‘gun-free’ zones. All this executive order does is put a bullseye on the back of every person at Philadelphia recreational facilities, because they know that Mayor Kenney won’t let you defend yourself there.”

“The lack of respect for taxpayer money is appalling,” said Andrew Austin, attorney for GOA and the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. “Pennsylvania law is clear here: Philly is not allowed to make gun regulations. Every appellate court in Pennsylvania has made this clear multiple times. Yet, they continue to waste taxpayer money by attempting to enact these illegal laws.”

Gun Owners of America will be seeking to enjoin enforcement of Mayor Kenney’s Executive Order in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. In addition, GOA has previously filed several other lawsuits in Philadelphia in the last two years in pursuit of Second Amendment rights, and will continue to fight as long as necessary to ensure every citizen has the ability to defend themselves, particularly in lawless cities such as Mayor Kenney’s Philadelphia.


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