The Lead

Pa. Senate committee advances local firearm ordinance preemption bill

By: - January 19, 2022 3:09 pm

A Republican-penned, and veto-bound, bill that would deter municipalities from drafting local gun ordinances stricter than state law advanced out of a Senate panel on Wednesday.

The previously approved House legislation, authored by state Rep. Matthew Dowling, R-Fayette, strengthens Pennsylvania’s preemption law and makes towns and cities responsible for all legal costs in successful court challenges to local restrictions. 

The GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9-5 along party lines to send the proposal, which passed the House in June, to the full Senate for consideration.

Dowling’s legislation gives municipalities 60 days’ written notice to repeal an ordinance to avoid litigation. The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General would also alert the state township and borough associations about what the bill requires before it takes effect.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vowed to veto its companion bill, introduced by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield, which passed the Senate in November.

Existing state law prohibits municipalities from circumventing state firearms laws. However, Langerholc said the legislation is necessary because local governing boards, such as those in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, continue to pass stricter gun ordinances. Opponents worry outside groups, including the National Rifle Association, will sue municipalities and leave taxpayers to front the cost.

“There’s a very simple solution to that — don’t pass a law in the municipality that is in direct contravention to existing state law. Problem solved,” Langerholc said. “And no taxpayers will be at risk of penalty.”

Sen. Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, offered an amendment, which failed in a party-line vote, to ensure that municipalities could regulate the carry and use of firearms and ammunition in publicly-owned lands and facilities through a local ordinance or resolution.

“The public will have an opportunity to participate and comment on the proposed policies, the outcome of which shall demonstrate the will of each community to address their own public safety concerns, especially in the absence of true leadership by [a] compassionate, concerned, and responsive General Assembly,” Collett said.

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