State lawmakers representing Philadelphia welcome lawsuit against commonwealth, legislature for restricting gun-safety measures

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 7 – State House lawmakers representing the House Philadelphia Delegation and Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus today pledged their full weight behind major legal action being taken against the commonwealth for preventing local governments from enacting their own gun-safety laws.

The lawsuit filed by the city and private law firms on behalf of Pennsylvanians who have been impacted by gun violence was announced at a news conference in Philadelphia today.

Philadelphia Delegation Chairman Jason Dawkins and PLBC Chairman Stephen Kinsey said it was long past time for the many people who have been impacted by gun violence to receive true acknowledgement and justice for their pain. They said the delegations they lead have worked for years to enact sensible gun-safety measures in the state but have been hampered by a Republican majority legislature determined to give no one in the state the ability to reduce gun violence and save lives.

“Philadelphia and municipalities across the state took action tragedy after tragedy on behalf of the residents they serve when the state would not, only to be met with callous laws specifically designed to prevent them from doing so,” Dawkins said. “I am equally tired of the hallow promises to help reduce gun violence being made by the Republican majority following each tragedy. They hold the power to move the commonsense gun safety legislation we put forward. Yet, they continue to deny people that opportunity. I wholeheartedly endorse this legal action as an attempt to help our communities address the violence that is plaguing our streets.”

“Gun violence, a leading and preventable cause of death among Black Pennsylvanians, is, of course, a non-issue to the majority party,” Kinsey said. “House Republicans, backed by gun groups like the NRA, postured themselves to be gatekeepers of gun regulations, stripping local municipalities of any powers to protect their citizens from this public health crisis, all the while impeding any attempts at commonsense gun reform that saves lives, more specifically Black lives,” Kinsey said. “I stand with the city and every victim and survivor of gun violence across our commonwealth in this fight. House Republicans have repeatedly failed to fulfill the people’s demands for meaningful gun reform and have instead chose to uphold guns – objects -- over the human lives that continue to be killed and maimed by them. These gun groups and the lawmakers willing to their do their bidding must be made to understand that we need to give local municipalities the power to mitigate this crisis.”

“These preemption gun laws -- enacted by a Republican majority -- have rendered Philadelphia and municipalities across our commonwealth completely powerless in their attempts to save lives in the wake of this public health crisis,” said state Rep. Malcom Kenyatta, vice chairman of the Philadelphia Delegation. “I fully support this lawsuit because proponents of these oppressive measures don’t live in these communities that continue to be traumatized by the carnage in our streets. They don’t share the collective pain of families mourning loved ones killed and maimed by gun violence. They choose not to empathize, but rather turn their heads and procure more legislation at peril of countless lives.”

"Gun violence has been a serious issue in Philadelphia for quite some time," said state Rep. Donna Bullock, vice chairwoman of the PLBC. "Every single time a life is lost to gun violence, it is an absolute travesty, the ripples of which affect many people -- from the victim's family members to their friends and all the people in their community. The solutions to addressing gun violence might not be simple, but it is clear that something must be done, and that truth becomes more apparent every time another life is lost."

“We must continue fighting to pass statewide legislation that tackles the underlying systemic factors that are causes of the gun violence public health crisis,” said state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, secretary/treasurer of the Philadelphia Delegation. “We must also equip local governments with all the tools needed to address the gun violence in our communities right now. There are clear, immediate gun-safety measures that our communities have demanded that have been shut down by the majority party in the General Assembly. The Republicans have failed to act; I stand by this effort to empower our communities through legal action.”

The House Philadelphia lawmakers said Pennsylvania's unreasonable preemption statute has effectively blocked Philadelphia and other municipalities from protecting their citizens with ordinances such as mandating the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, requiring local licenses for firearms and annual renewals, banning assault weapons, limiting handgun purchases to one per month, and tracking ammunition sales, among others.

“The Republican majority state legislature even enacted a law in 2014 allowing organizations like the NRA to sue municipalities that attempt to put ordinances in place to protect their residents, an effort to keep these local governments in line and bankrupt them if they don't stay there,” Dawkins said. “The court overturned that law due to a technicality, and Republicans have since tried to put it back. But with Governor Wolf at the helm to veto these actions, our delegations working with local governments to get sensible laws in place, and this legal effort by people who have been severely harmed by the legislature’s actions and inactions, I remain hopeful that we can and will be able to protect our residents from the torment and devastation of gun violence.”

Dawkins, Kinsey, Kenyatta, Bullock and Fiedler join other lawmakers as members of the PA Safe Caucus, a bicameral caucus in the General Assembly whose members work to reduce all types of violence in Pennsylvania, with a focus on reducing gun violence and promoting public safety.