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Section 21 . Right to Bear Arms
The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.
Pa. bill aimed at stopping municipalities from enacting illegal local firearms ordinances
As president of the central Pennsylvania chapter of Firearms Owners Against Crime, Timothy Havener has the time to fight illegal gun ordinances throughout the commonwealth.
But many people don’t, and those are the folks, Havener says, who could find themselves having to shuck out legal fees to defend themselves against local laws that he maintains shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Municipal firearms ordinances – everything from bans on possessing guns in local and county parks to prohibitions on carrying weapons in municipal buildings – are null and void, Havener claims, all because of a state law that gives the Pennsylvania legislature the final say over firearm regulations.
But while all gun laws are preempted by state statute, local ordinances seem to be on the books throughout the commonwealth, something that can cause trouble for those who find themselves in violation of said laws.
It’s for this reason that a western Pennsylvania lawmaker has introduced a bill that would provide attorney’s fees to those who end up having to fight the disputed ordinances in court.
Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is the sponsor behind H.B. 1523, which is aimed at deterring municipalities from enacting their own gun ordinances despite the state prohibition.
“These [Pennsylvania] communities that are in violation of the law have no incentive to change their laws … because there’s no penalties,” Havener said. “It takes a lot of prodding, and sometimes a lot of work, to get these communities to change their laws.”
Metcalfe’s bill is modeled after a similar law that was recently passed in Florida, another state with a firearms preemption statute. The Florida law makes it a third degree felony for a local elected official to knowingly pass an ordinance that violates state law. It also provides for fines in an event such an ordinance is passed. And, like the Pennsylvania bill, it provides for attorney’s fees if such an ordinance has to be challenged in court.
The Metcalfe bill only contains the latter; it does not propose fines or jail time for local officials who pass gun laws.
The lawmaker said he thought the bill would have a better chance of getting passed into law at this point if it only contained the legal fees provision.
"Postjudgment liquidated damages." A sum equal to three times the actual damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred by a party who successfully brings or maintains an action described under subsection (a.2)(2).
"Prejudgment liquidated damages." A sum equal to two times the actual damages, reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred by a party who brings or maintains an action described under subsection (a.2)(2).