Crawford v. Pennsylvania: Supporting a Local Challenge to Pennsylvania’s Preemption Law
Case Information: Crawford v. Commonwealth, No. 562 MD 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Brief filed April 2, 2021)
At Issue: Pennsylvania has a preemption law that prevents local governments from regulating the possession, carrying, ownership and transportation of firearms. As a result of this law, cities like Philadelphia have been blocked from adopting or enforcing local regulations designed to to combat the catastrophic amounts of gun violence they experience. Plaintiffs, 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, Plaintiffs 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. The case is now before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
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 municipalities) from discharging their responsibilities to protect public safety and 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.