Firearm Owners Against Crime v. Harrisburg: Defending Local Innovation in Pennsylvania
Case Information: Firearm Owners Against Crime v. City of Harrisburg, No. 29 MAP 2020 (Pa. Supreme Court Brief filed July 8, 2020)
At Issue: Pennsylvania was one of the first states to adopt an expansive Home Rule regime, which gives cities and other local governments broad powers to pass ordinances addressing local needs. This freedom encourages local legislative experimentation that can test innovative solutions to community problems, some of which have later been adopted on the state level. At the behest of the gun lobby, however, Pennsylvania enacted a preemption law at the state level which limits local governments’ ability to pass ordinances regulating firearms or ammunition. Plaintiffs challenged some of Harrisburg’s local ordinances under Pennsylvania’s preemption law. The Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The case is now on appeal before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We joined Ceasefire Pennsylvania Education Fund to write an amicus brief on behalf of over 60 local officials, religious leaders, community organizations and gun violence prevention groups. Traditionally, in order to bring a lawsuit challenging a law, plaintiffs must prove that they have standing—they must show that they have been harmed by the law. In this case, none of the plaintiffs have been charged with violating any of the ordinances in question, so under Pennsylvania’s current standing doctrine, the lawsuit they brought should not have been allowed to continue. However, the lower court did allow it. Our brief urges the Pennsylvania Supreme court to reverse the lower court’s decision on this basis. We argue that the expanded view of standing reflected in the lower court’s decision is legally unsupported and disproportionately benefits individuals and organizations opposed to government efforts to reduce gun violence without similarly benefiting people and organizations in favor of government action.