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Gun ordinances in the crosshairs

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Gun rights groups are suing cities across Pennsylvania, challenging their gun ordinances.

One of those lawsuits is playing out in Harrisburg, where the group U.S. Law Shield and Dauphin County attorney Justin McShane are trying to get five of the city’s ordinances regulating the use of guns thrown out.

“We need to recognize that Harrisburg does have an epidemic of violence, and the number of guns which are being used, especially by our youth in the city is a public safety hazard,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse (D).

The ordinances at the center of the lawsuit include: the prohibition on discharging weapons or firearms; possession of firearms by minors; the requirement to report lost and stolen firearms; the prohibition on carrying guns in parks (including playgrounds); and an ordinance granting the mayor additional authority to regulate gun use during emergencies.

“The fact is these laws are illegal. The local governments don’t have the authority to enact or enforce these laws,” said Mike Giaramita, an attorney with the McShane Firm.

FOX43 wanted to know to what extent the city had been enforcing the ordinances in the lawsuit in 2013 and 2014.

The city initially denied our Right-to-Know request, pointing out there's no requirement to track that information.

FOX43 appealed to the state's Office of Open Records, which ordered the city to release the information.

In the two years for which we requested records, the police had documentation of 95 incidents related to the illegal discharge ordinance, resulting in 23 people charged.

There were two minors charged for possessing weapons.

However, for the remaining three ordinances, police had no records of any incidents related to them or of anyone being charged with violating them.

"One of the issues that might be raised is why the local government, why the Mayor and City Council are fighting so hard to protect these laws if they're not using them," said Giaramita.

In the video below, Mayor Papenfuse responds to that statement and explains why he feels this legal battle is worth fighting.