Crawford v. Pennsylvania: Supporting a Local Challenge to Pennsylvania’s Preemption Law
Case Information: Crawford v. Pennsylvania, 19 EAP 2022 (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, brief filed September 30, 2022)
At Issue: In May 2022, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissed a petition for review challenging a state preemption law that prevents local governments from regulating the possession, carrying, ownership, and transportation of firearms. Petitioners argued that the preemption law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution by preventing localities from exercising the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty. The petitioners–now the appellants–appealed the Commonwealth Court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Our Brief: With Brady, we urge the Court to reverse the Commonwealth Court’s order dismissing the challenge to Pennsylvania’s preemption law. Reiterating the arguments we made in our brief supporting petitioners in the original case, we discuss the demonstrable harm caused by state laws preempting local safety measures and argue there is a compelling need for proposed municipal ordinances that have been blocked by Pennsylvania’s law. Similar permit-to-purchase regulations, frequency-of-purchase limitations, and extreme-risk-protection-order regimes have been implemented in jurisdictions throughout the United States and credited with significant reductions in gun violence. In particular, a nationwide tradition of permitting laws offers more than a century of support for proposed permit-to-purchase ordinances.
Case Information: Crawford v. Commonwealth, No. 562 MD 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Brief filed April 2, 2021)
At Issue: As a result of Pennsylvania’s preemption law, cities like Philadelphia have been blocked from adopting or enforcing local regulations designed to combat the catastrophic amounts of gun violence they experience. Petitioners, including Pennsylvania citizens affected by gun violence and the City of Philadelphia, filed suit against the Commonwealth, the general assembly, and certain government officials, challenging the firearm preemption law. Among other claims, Petitoners allege that by preventing localities from adopting or enforcing laws that could protect their residents from gun violence, respondents are in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which protects the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty.
Our Brief: We joined Brady in a brief which argues that Pennsylvania’s preemption law prevents municipalities from enforcing ordinances which are necessary to protect the life and liberty of Pennsylvania’s citizens. We then summarize the empirical evidence that shows how three gun safety policies which local governments have been blocked from adopting or enforcing have been found to reduce gun deaths. We further argue that Pennsylvania’s firearm preemption law prevents municipalities, particularly urban cities such as Philadelphia, from discharging their responsibilities to protect public safety. It also runs contrary to the commonwealth’s broad Home Rule regime, which grants significant autonomy to local governments to design innovative local solutions to local problems.