PHILADELPHIA - The City of Philadelphia has announced legal action against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over gun safety laws.
City officials, including city council leaders and Mayor Jim Kenney announced the lawsuit during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
In the suit, the city argues that the Pennsylvania General Assembly "refuses to enact sensible gun safety laws while simultaneously handcuffing local governments” from enacting proven policies of their own that have been shown to be effective in saving lives."
Earlier this year, local legislation was approved to authorize Philadelphia City Council to "retain counsel to file a lawsuit compelling the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to carry out its obligation to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania by enacting, or authorizing municipalities to enact, commonsense, constitutional legislation that addresses the public health crisis of gun violence."
In a press release, the city cited an example from 2019, when Council President Darrell L. Clark and Councilmember Cindy Bass introduced Philadelphia's "Safe Havens Law."
The law, which sought to prohibit guns and other deadly weapons from playgrounds and recreation centers, was passed by city council. City officials say the law was then blocked from public hearing at the state level by leadership in the General Assembly.
The lawsuit comes as gun violence reaches historic levels in the city with shooting incidents up 57% over 2019, and the number of shooting victims up 47%. The city also says the number of shooting victims under the age of 18 is up 67% over 2019.
Plantiffs in the lawsuit include Philadlephia residents harmed by gun violence, as well as residents "burdened by public health and public safety costs associated with gun violence."
Jason Gottesman, spokesperson for the House Republican Caucus, said preemption is laid out in the state Constitution and has been upheld by the courts repeatedly.
“Preemption is a necessary component of municipalities being creatures of the state, who retain ultimate oversight of them and their actions,” Gottesman wrote in an emailed statement. “Ultimately, this is another example of Democrat leaders making an end-run around the legislature by seeking action in the courts rather than the constitutionally-provided legislative process in changing our state’s laws.”
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