U.S. Law Shield
May 7, 2014
U.S. Law Shield
Attention Pennsylvania Members!
Dear Pennsylvania Members and Friends,
There is interesting firearms legislation pending right now that could help maintain your firearms rights or better enforce those rights if they are unlawfully infringed. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the pending bill has been tabled since March 19, 2014 and no action has taken place since then. The good news is many of these issues were clarified in a recent Pennsylvania appellate decision.

This newsletter will provide some insight into the pending legislation and the recent appellate decision.

Here�s the legislation that�s on hold:

18 Pa.C.S. 6120 is an existing Pennsylvania statute which limits the regulations that municipalities can place on lawful firearm ownership, transfer, or possession. This statute is commonly referred to as a �preemption� statute, which basically mandates that state law will prevail over differing or conflicting municipal regulations or ordinances in the area of firearms ownership, transfer, or possession.

HB 2011 sought to add an additional paragraph to provide relief for anyone impacted by an unlawful regulation that may have been imposed. Basically, if a court said that the person who was adversely affected was right, and that person prevailed in Court or the regulation was rescinded prior to the court�s final determination, the adversely affected party could get relief, including damages, court costs and attorneys� fees.

This bill seems to have been inspired by the case of Justin Dillon v. City of Erie, No. 1038 C .D. 2013, (Commonwealth Court 2013), decided January 7, 2014.

Justin Dillon v. City of Erie:

Justin Dillon wanted to have a pro-gun rally at a city park in Erie, PA. The permit for the rally was granted, pursuant to the condition that no one possess a firearm at the rally. Well, what sort of pro-gun rights rally is that?

The City cited to Section 955.06(b) of city ordinances that prohibits possession of firearms in city parks. If convicted, possession in a city park is a summary criminal offense punishable by up to a $300 fine or 90 days jail.

Dillon sought an injunction to stop the restriction on the rally permit and also enjoin the enforcement of the ordinance itself. The County of Erie Court of Common Pleas trial court judge denied the injunction, stating that he did not meet the requirements for relief, meaning the trial court thought he was not likely to prevail on his claims.

The en banc panel of the Commonwealth Court overturned the trial court judge on appeal, saying that the trial court judge was clearly wrong. The injunction was ordered to be granted (though the rally had already happened and the injunction was in a way moot, Dillon had ongoing litigation because he was cited for an ordinance violation at the rally for possessing a firearm).

The trial court found that Dillon did not meet the criteria, namely that he was unlikely to prevail on the merits because Section 6120(a) did not clearly preempt Section 955.06 of the City�s Ordinances because �the ordinance does not (as �6120 seems to) regulate gun ownership, registration, sales, purchases, licensing, transfer or transport of firearms.� This was wrong according to the Commonwealth Court.

On appeal, it was held that 6120 clearly preempts the city ordinance 955.06, that that section is unenforceable because it infringes on the rights to possess, transfer, or own a firearm, contrary to the laws of the state. Therefore, the ruling was reversed and the injunction granted.

Now there is statewide court precedent to allow guns to be possessed in parks (except cities of the first class meaning Philly and Pittsburgh). Any attempt to infringe those rights like the City of Erie�s attempt (again, except cities of the first class, meaning Philly and Pittsburgh) is now fairly clearly decided at this point.

It may be that this appellate decision lessens the perceived need for HB 2011 in the Pennsylvania legislature. If you�d still like to see HB 2011 move forward, please contact your representative. You can find your state representative here.
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