Harrisburg Capitol Building

Legislation that would grant private citizens standing to challenge local gun ordinances and would allow for the reimbursement of the cost of any civil action, including loss of income, cleared the state House of Representatives judiciary committee.

State Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry, the sponsor of HB 2011, said some municipalities have been passing ordinances regulating firearms even though state law preempts any local government action.

“This all started when I conducted an educational seminar for people who have a license to carry,” Keller said. “And there seemed to be a lot of confusion about what happens when they travel if a local government passes an ordinance different from state law. This helps to enforce the fact that state law always preempts local actions.”

An official with the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors said the organization had no opposition to the substance of the bill but was concerned its application could be one-sided.

“We absolutely agree that no township has the right to pass an ordinance banning firearms or enacting anything stricter than state law,” said Elam Herr, assistant executive director of the PSATS. “But we do have the right to, for instance, zone where guns shops may do business. If we get sued over something that we have every right to do, we are still liable for costs under the legislation.”

Herr said the PSATS would support the legislation if it were amended to protect local government in instances where someone files a frivolous suit.

The judiciary committee also passed a separate firearms bill, HB 1901, that would toughen penalties against those who use illegal guns.

“This bill will give prosecutors an additional tool to fight illegal firearm possession and violence in the city of Philadelphia,” state Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, the sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “If a person is carrying any type of firearm in public, it is a crime unless the person is properly licensed or exempted from licensing.”

Under the measure, the possession of a firearm without a legal permit and that is not owned by the person carrying the weapon would be a felony of the third degree, and anyone convicted would face a minimum mandatory sentence of at least two years.

— J.L.K. •