Harrisburg goes to court over gun ordinances

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The city of Harrisburg was in court today defending its gun laws. It's one of the many cities in the state being sued by a gun rights group. The group, U.S. Law Shield is arguing that they city's gun ordinances break state law and infringe on the rights of gun owners who aren't doing anything wrong.

Both sides were in court earlier Friday for a preliminary injunction hearing. A judge will decide in the coming days whether or not Harrisburg's gun laws will stand while this legal process plays out. Mayor Eric Papenfuse feels confident that the Judge Andrew Dowling will rule in the city's favor.

But, he wants the judge to freeze the case until the Commonwealth Court rules on the issue first.

"It's not going to work in Harrisburg and it's not going to work in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh or Lancaster where we're all united in working together to make sure that act 192 is defeated," said Papenfuse.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 192 late last year. It allows gun owners rights groups, or anyone for that matter, to sue local municipalities over their gun laws. The law also says that if a municipality loses the legal battle, it must pay the plaintiff's legal fees. Dozens of municipalities face expensive legal battles. But, Harrisburg isn't backing down.

"Our ordinances are to protect the citizens of the city, and that's what we're here doing," said Chief Tom Carter, from the Harrisburg Police Department.

U.S. Law Shield says the city's ordinances infringe on gun owners' rights.

"Right now good citizens are enjoined from doing things that are legal by these illegal ordinances, it has to stop," said Justin McShane, attorney for U.S. Law Shield.

Mayor Papenfuse believes the judge may rule in the city's favor. At one point the judge asked if 14th and Market Streets would be a safe place to hunt. That area is in the neighborhood where the city experiences gun violence.

"There's no eligible area to hunt anywhere within the city of Harrisburg, and what that comment reflects is the degree to which we have an epidemic of violence," said Papenfuse.

Judge Dowling did not indicate when he will make a ruling. McShane said if the city were to lose this legal battle it would cost upwards of $10,000 in legal fees. But, he didn't indicate whether he plans to accept the money if the city loses.

1 Comment

  • Gene

    Judge Dowling has a choice to make: either we are a nation of laws or we are not. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

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