Skip to Main Content

Rashad T. Armstrong v. City of Philadelphia: Protecting gun violence prevention at the local level

Case Information: Rashad T. Armstrong v. City of Philadelphia, No. 81 EAL 2022 (on petition for allowance of appeal before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, filed March 16, 2022)

At Issue: Philadelphia is suffering from a record-breaking gun violence epidemic. More than 550 people were fatally shot last year in Philadelphia, but gun violence had a much broader lasting impact: close to 2,000 others were shot and survived. In response to increasing rates of gun violence, Philadelphia passed Section 10-838a of their city code. This legislation requires gun owners to report guns that are lost or stolen to local law enforcement, allowing the city to address the problem of illegal gun trafficking and straw purchasing. This commonsense law was challenged, and the  intermediate appellate court found this law to be preempted by the state’s firearm preemption statute.

Our Brief: In a joint brief with Brady and March for Our Lives, we argue that the state Supreme Court should hear an appeal of the appellate court’s decision because Section 10-838a is not preempted and should be upheld. The law is a reasonable, evidence-backed solution to an extremely grave public safety crisis.  Whether it can be enforced under the state’s preemption statute is an issue of substantial public importance. Local lost and stolen reporting laws like Section 10-838a serve important public safety functions by deterring this gun trafficking and straw purchasing. They also help law enforcement recover and return lost or stolen guns to their lawful owners. Furthermore, reporting laws work to ensure that prohibited persons—such as persons with felony convictions or those subject to domestic violence restraining orders—cannot falsely claim their guns were lost or stolen when enforcement seeks to remove their firearms. 

Our brief points out that firearm regulation has  historically been within the purview of local government. Supported by both law and history, courts across the country have come to similar conclusions that localities are best equipped to address the unique—here, uniquely extreme—gun violence within their borders. For these reasons, our brief argues that the court should hear Philadelphia’s appeal.

Read the full text of our amicus brief here.