Feb 15, 2022 - News

Pennsylvania court blocks Philly's lost-or-stolen gun reporting law

Illustration of a row of gavels, with all but one of them transparent.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A Pennsylvania court on Monday froze a Philadelphia gun control law mandating that residents report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours or face a fine.

Driving the news: Three Commonwealth Court judges reversed a lower court order and placed a permanent injunction on the city's 2009 gun control measure, effectively making the law illegal and preventing the city from enforcing it.

  • The panel of judges ruled the city was preempted by state law, the latter of which requires approval of firearm control from the General Assembly.

Why it matters: Philadelphia officials have passed a number of gun control measures over the last several decades, all of which have been rendered unenforceable because of the state's preemption law.

  • The city is suffering from a historic level of gun violence, with killings reaching an all-time high in 2021.

Flashback: District Attorney Larry Krasner began enforcing the firearm reporting law in 2019 in an effort to cut down on straw purchasers.

  • The ruling this week centered on an appeal from Rashad Armstrong, who was charged in 2019 with violating the reporting mandate and faced a $2,000 fine.

What they're saying: Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, who ruled against the city in the case, noted Philadelphia's "overwhelming blight of gun violence."

  • In her opinion, she urged the state Supreme Court to reconsider the state’s preemption law to allow for "narrowly tailored" local gun laws.

Krasner's spokesperson deferred all questions to the city.

  • Kevin Lessard, a spokesperson for the city, expressed disappointment in the court's decision, adding, "We maintain that our Lost and Stolen ordinance is legal."
  • Lessard declined to say whether the city will appeal the ruling.
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