October 22, 2021
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling this week allowing a group of plaintiffs to proceed with their lawsuit challenging firearm restrictions enacted by the City of Harrisburg, PA. The court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to proceed with their lawsuits even though they have not yet been prosecuted for violations of the laws at issue. In particular, at issue are local laws with criminal penalties for discharging a firearm outside a shooting range, possessing firearms in parks, failing to report lost or stolen firearms within two days, or unaccompanied children having firearms outside their homes. The plaintiffs, including Firearm Owners Against Crime (a Pennsylvania organization), are challenging the Harrisburg ordinances alleging they violate their constitutional rights under the Second Amendment and are preempted under Section 6120 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (UFA), 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 6101-6128, which provides that “no county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”
Although, traditionally, a plaintiff must show an actual injury caused by the challenged law to be able to proceed with their claim, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that, in this case, the plaintiffs could proceed with their case because they are currently required to comply with the law, and should not need to subject themselves to criminal penalties to assert the challenge. The court further found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims because their “conduct is currently regulated by the challenged ordinances, and their interest in the outcome of this action clearly surpasses that of every other citizen.” As a result of this decision, the case is being remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims. This decision is a significant win for the plaintiffs hoping to obtain a declaratory judgment finding that the Harrisburg firearm restrictions are unconstitutional.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor significant firearms litigation and legislation in Pennsylvania, and around the country. If you have any questions concerning this case or related litigation or legislation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.