The City of Philadelphia has decided to test Pennsylvania’s firearm preemption law again. It is getting sued again.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D.) signed an executive order on Tuesday banning firearms in all city-owned recreational facilities. Less than 24 hours later, Gun Owners of America (GOA) filed suit against the order in state court.
“Pennsylvania law expressly preempts the Mayor from banning firearms in public recreational facilities,” the complaint reads. “Nonetheless, Mayor Jim Kenney has attempted to do so. He may not. Pennsylvania law is ‘crystal clear’: regulation of firearms is a matter of statewide concern, and must be undertaken by the General Assembly.”
The suit represents yet another fight between gun-rights advocates and Pennsylvania’s largest city over its propensity to enact gun control at the municipal level. Pennsylvania’s preemption statute expressly prohibits local gun regulations, yet city officials in Philadelphia have routinely attempted to make an exception for themselves. If successful, GOA’s case would be just the latest in a long line of decisions dating back decades rebuking the city’s efforts. It would also represent another setback in gun-control advocates’ attempts to pierce preemption laws across the country, which has been an ongoing fight for many years.
GOA, who has been involved in several of the previous challenges to the city’s gun ordinances, called the city’s repeated attempts to defy state preemption “appalling”.
“The lack of respect for taxpayer money is appalling,” Andrew Austin, GOA’s lead attorney in the case, said in a statement. “Philly is not allowed to make gun regulations. Every appellate court in Pennsylvania has made this clear multiple times. Yet, they continue to waste taxpayer money by attempting to enact these illegal laws.”
The organization described the Mayor’s latest executive order as a “feel good” regulation that only serves to hinder law-abiding gun carriers.
“All this executive order does is put a bullseye on the back of every person at Philadelphia recreational facilities, because they know that Mayor Kenney won’t let you defend yourself there,” Val Finnell, GOA’s Pennsylvania state director, added.
Mayor Kenney’s office declined to comment on pending litigation.
The mayor’s executive order would prohibit anyone carrying a firearm from entering any indoor or outdoor facility operated by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. That would include rec centers, ballfields, courts, pools, and playgrounds but would not cover park trails and “passive park space,” according to the order. Law enforcement and security personnel would be exempt from the ban, but licensed carry permittees would not be.
“It is unconscionable that anyone would bring deadly weapons where our city’s children gather to play,” Mayor Kenney said while signing the order. “We will not tolerate the endangerment of children and families while they are in the care of our treasured community spaces, and we must do everything we can to protect the public, as well as the dedicated staff that make these facilities run.”
The city has experienced over 400 murders so far in 2022. 14-year-old Nicholas Elizalde of Havertown, Pennsylvania was murdered on Tuesday after a football scrimmage at Roxborough High School despite the new ban.
GOA asked the court for an injunction against enforcement of the ban and to be “awarded costs” resulting from the litigation.