Recently Philadelphia’s City Council and Mayor’s office threatened a lawsuit against Commonwealth to allow the city to pass local gun and firearm laws that would be in addition to the laws already in place under Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act. Currently 40 states, including Pennsylvania, have broad firearm preemption laws that prohibit local governments, like the City of Philadelphia, from adopting gun laws based on alleged local conditions such as violence or civil unrest. The argument from city officials and the mayor is that local officials are most familiar with local criminal activity and how to address it. Up until 2014, groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) could sue cities for local ordinances which targeted guns and firearms. If the law were declared invalid the locality would be required to pay the legal fees and costs of the law’s challengers.
Philadelphia officials have argued that these preemption laws are creating dangerous situations and have complained about the lack of uniformity across the state with regards to gun violence. In Pennsylvania, for example, guns are prohibited in the state capital and on any state agency property but the same prohibition does not apply to local governments so the city of Philadelphia cannot restrict concealed carry in municipal buildings. Pennsylvania, however, does have gun laws that address illegal guns and the carrying of those guns or firearms. Philadelphia, however, wants to target guns in general regardless of their legal status or the intentions of the gun owner (i.e. personal protection, self defense)
Preemption – Pennsylvania v. New Jersey
New Jersey and Pennsylvania are very similar in that both jurisdictions do not allow local municipalities to pass gun control laws. In Pennsylvania, however, it is strictly prohibited but in New Jersey the preemption is mostly based on court precedent which holds that state legislators generally preempt the field of firearms law and control. While it is arguable that New Jersey’s local municipalities can pass its own gun laws, the Garden State has some of the stiffest gun penalties in the country which includes mandatory minimum sentencing for the illegal possession of firearms without a permit under its Graves Act. Given the strict criminal penalties, further local regulation is not necessary.
Unlike New Jersey, Pennsylvania doesn’t have many mandatory minimum sentencing laws when it comes to illegal guns and firearms. While the Commonwealth, doesn’t have many mandatory sentences, most of the gun crimes within PA are felony offenses. A person who is convicted of a gun offense in Pennsylvania faces a possible state prison sentence. The most common gun crimes that our criminal defense law firm handles in Pennsylvania criminal courts are the following:
- 18 § 6105 – illegal possession of a firearm by a prohibited person
- 18 § 6106 – possession of firearm without a license
- 18 § 6110 – possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number
- 18 § 6106 – possession of a firearm on the streets of Philadelphia
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