Last year, Philadelphia asked a court to fine a defendant $2,000 for failing to notify police about his missing pistol. It was the city’s first enforcement action under a decade-old ordinance requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours after discovering they’re gone. Philadelphia’s top prosecutors had long written off the ordinance as a violation of Pennsylvania’s pre-emption law, which says that municipalities can’t regulate firearms. The accuracy of that view is being tested as a judge weighs the defendant’s request for a permanent injunction that would not only derail the case against him but also block Philadelphia from enforcing the ordinance against anybody else, reports The Trace.
Philadelphia officials expected their enforcement to be challenged, but they have a renewed appetite for contesting state limits on municipal policymaking as their city, like many others, experiences an upswing in violence. With less than two months left in the year, Philadelphia has reported 425 homicides, 69 more killings than the city recorded in all of 2019. Local leaders have attributed the surge to myriad factors, but chief among them, they say, is easy access to firearms, a problem that could be ameliorated if they had more legislative latitude. “We are in a crisis here,” said City Council member Kenyatta Johnson, who chairs Philadelphia’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention. “We have to pass policies to keep illegal guns out of people’s hands, and we can only do that if the Legislature grants us the ability.” More than 40 states have adopted pre-emption laws to curtail municipal regulatory power over firearms to varying degrees, the results of an effort by the National Rifle Association. >In Philadelphia, City Council members joined Mayor Jim Kenney last month to announce that they were suing to have Pennsylvania’s pre-emption law declared unconstitutional.