April 8, 2019

Pittsburgh City Council passes legally questionable gun reform laws

NRA says it will challenge the bills, citing Pennsylvania preemption laws

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By Annie Siebert

Photo by JUSTIN MERRIMAN OF AMERICAN REPORTAGE

After a gunman walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue on a Saturday in October and shot and killed 11 people, the city’s Council decided to do something the paralyzed state and federal governments have failed to do: pass gun reform bills.

Last week, the council voted 6-3 to pass legislation that would regulate the use of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, among other restrictions.

The National Rifle Association immediately announced plans to file a lawsuit against the city, arguing that state preemption laws prevent individual municipalities from enacting their own gun control laws. Experts say the Pittsburgh gun control bills are unlikely to hold up to legal challenges.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, says the city has the legal authority to enact the laws and is prepared to defend them in court.

But “commonsense” legislation like the Pittsburgh bills can backfire and serve as a rallying cry for Second Amendment advocates, meaning laws go unchanged — and gun rights activists have a catalyst for recruitment.

Photo by Justin Merriman of American Reportage

Annie Siebert, Postindustrial's editor-in-chief, began her journalism career as a copy editor on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's night city desk before reporting on the city's eastern suburbs. She then worked as an editor for S&P Global Platts' real-time news service; on freelance writing, editing, and researching projects; and for LedBetter, a data project that tracks corporate progress on equal opportunity and diversity.

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