Both sides hail ruling about Philly gun ordinances
By MARK SCOLFORO
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a mixed verdict this week on Philadelphia's gun ordinances, allowing both sides to claim at least a partial victory in the running battle over the city's efforts to issue its own firearms laws.
The set of decisions issued Monday means the city may continue to require people to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours. The rulings also allow the city to develop regulations to enforce two other laws: one that lets police temporarily seize guns from those considered to pose a risk to themselves or others and another that bans gun ownership for anyone subject to a protection-from-abuse order.
But the high court also let stand a Philadelphia judge's decision that threw out ordinances that limited people to buying one gun a month and banned assault weapons.
"It's a mixed decision, there are no winners and losers in this case," said Richard Feder, the city government's chief deputy for appeals. "The city's appeals were denied and the NRA's appeals were denied."
The NRA was previously deemed to lack legal standing to challenge the three still-standing ordinances. It remains to be seen what might happen if the city were to charge someone with not reporting a stolen gun, and that person takes legal action.
Feder said about 1,000 people have reported lost or stolen guns over the past 2 1/2 years, but no one has been charged with violating the law.
"As soon as they arrest somebody or charge somebody for failing to report a lost or stolen handgun, that ordinance, like the assault weapons ban or the one-gun-a-month ordinance will be stricken as well," said NRA attorney C. Scott Shields.
As for the one-gun-a-month and assault weapons ban, Shields said the court's decision not to take the city's appeal "affirmed prior decisions which clearly state Philadelphia cannot go out on its own and enact its own gun-control legislation."
Philadelphia enacted the five ordinances in April 2008 in an attempt to address a severe gun-violence problem.
Several dozen Pennsylvania cities have followed Philadelphia's lead by either enacting legislation to require reporting of lost or stolen guns or by passing resolutions supportive of such laws, said Daniel Vice, senior attorney with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.