Gun lobby pursues extreme legislation to go after Pennsylvania cities

Crawford County Pennsylvania Courthouse

After the NRA helped defeat state legislation that would have required Pennsylvania gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement, dozens of cities statewide enacted the requirement themselves. The gun lobby responded by suing cities that had enacted the measure. When those suits failed, they began pushing bills through the legislature that would make it easier to sue local governments for enacting ordinances such as the lost or stolen reporting requirement.

One such bill has already passed the State Senate and would require cities to pay attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, court costs and damages if a plaintiff succeeds in a lawsuit. Cities would be required to pay even if the city repealed the ordinance while the lawsuit was still pending. Another bill would require cities to pay triple the damages, fees and costs if a plaintiff were to prevail in court.

One Pennsylvania mayor whose city requires reporting of lost or stolen firearms predicted that if the measure is enacted into law, his city will “spend money fighting frivolous litigation instead of hiring police officers.” Another Pennsylvania mayor of a city with the reporting requirement said, “All we’re trying to do is protect our citizens. We were kind of shocked. The legislation is absolutely insane.”

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Why was a Nevada Commission Too Afraid to Even Discuss Assault Weapons?

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A year ago today, four people were killed and seven more injured by a man with an assault weapon at an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada. Immediately, survivors and members of law enforcement issued calls for change. “I can’t imagine why we are even selling assault weapons to civilians,” said shooting survivor and National Guard Sergeant Caitlin Kelly. “There’s no reason for an AK-47 or an M-16 or an M-4 to be in a civilian’s home.” The sheriff of nearby Washoe County concurred, urging the public to “stand up and demand change.”

Heeding the call for action, an advisory commission tasked with reviewing the state’s criminal justice system scheduled a hearing to gather information about assault weapons. The commission invited one of our attorneys to participate, alongside representatives from the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association and the National Rifle Association. We accepted the invitation, pleased to have the opportunity to provide our expertise. That discussion was scheduled for last Tuesday. Unfortunately, it never happened.

In the weeks leading up to the scheduled hearing date, pro-gun supporters inundated the commission with e-mails, phone calls and letters. The NRA sent an alert to its members encouraging them to attend the hearing and voice their opposition to regulating assault weapons. The group, which didn’t want to talk about the devastation the Carson City victims and their families suffered in the aftermath of that tragedy, was now more than willing to talk about their real priority – keeping dangerous military-style firearms legal. After all, according to the Nevada State Rifle and Pistol Association, assault weapons are just plain “fun to shoot.”

At the hearing, with a crowd of pro-gun supporters watching, Judge David Barker, a commission member, questioned the authority of the commission to discuss assault weapons. Despite assurance from the commission’s legal counsel that the subject fit well within the body’s purview, the commission then voted, eight to five, to remove the issue from its agenda. It was a shocking, last-minute decision, and the commission’s counsel told us he had never seen anything like it.

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