Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto issued a joint statement today on provisions added to HB 80 to increase the vulnerability of cities and other localities to lawsuits by pro-gun advocates.
The new provisions would give pro-gun groups or other organizations legal standing to sue municipalities with the aim of invalidating firearms ordinances and other local regulations. HB 80 would also require that if a lawsuit is filed against a municipality and succeeds, the municipality must pay all legal fees and costs for the plaintiffs.
The bill is now before the House (after passing the Senate where all Senators from Philadelphia opposed the new provisions). The Mayors urged members of the House not to concur in these amendments:
“We are profoundly opposed to the provisions added to HB 80 in the Senate. Gun violence represents a particularly tragic epidemic in poorer communities in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Parents, family members and community leaders are naturally compelled by concern for their loved ones to do everything in their power to combat the shootings that destroy lives. It is squarely at some of these responses by the community that HB 80 is now aimed. The standing and attorneys fees provisions of HB 80 raise the stakes for local governments, and the communities they serve, for trying to do something about illegal gun violence.
“In Philadelphia, lawmakers have implemented ordinances and policies, such as requirements regarding lost or stolen firearms, and possession of firearms on City property, that address the issue of proliferation of unlawful guns, while staying within the statutory framework set out by the General Assembly. While any law can be tested in court, no one, much less resource-strapped municipalities and their taxpayers, should be singled out to bear markedly increased risk and cost for trying to protect human life. Indeed, under HB 80, it would be riskier for cities to act on matters of unlawful gun possession and violence than to act on zoning. No one would reasonably argue that human life should be riskier to defend than a zoning setback.
“The General Assembly should not facilitate lawsuits against local governments simply to thwart their modest attempts at striking a balance between the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and reducing the proliferation of illegal firearms and the deaths they cause. Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania provides that the courts shall be open to all and provides for remedies in the due course of the law. No more is necessary to settle disputes about the validity of ordinances, and yet this bill would give certain litigants special treatment, and impose new costs on taxpayers. We respectfully urge the House not to pass HB 80 with these onerous provisions in it.”
Media contact for Mayor William Peduto:
Office of Mayor William Peduto
City of Pittsburgh