HARRISBURG — Six weeks after 11 people died in a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Democratic State Rep. Dan Frankel is seeking cosponsors for legislation that would allow municipalities or counties to more easily create their own gun laws.
Frankel, whose district includes the synagogue, is pitching two bills that would seek to remove “preemption language” from either state law or the Allegheny County Code. Pennsylvania courts have ruled that such language prohibits cities from enacting gun laws that differ substantially from state law, striking down, for example, bans on assault weapons in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“What I’m trying to do is, basically, change those laws, and remove the preemption for local governments and allow them to move forward in light of the fact that the state has been unable or unwilling to address the issues,” Frankel said.
Gun bills are often a heavy lift in the Republican-controlled legislature, and few have passed in recent years. Proponents of the preemption language have argued that it saves gun owners from accidentally running afoul of a patchwork set of firearms laws that could vary across municipal boundaries. Critics have said it prohibits local governments from enacting measures sought by their residents.
Frankel began circulating on Wednesday a memo seeking support for the legislation. His efforts come as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is urging mayors across the country to introduce their own local gun bills.
Also on Wednesday, Frankel and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) announced that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency has awarded a $1 million grant to help the Center for Victims hire additional counselors to work with people impacted by the Tree of Life shooting. Anyone seeking additional information about the counseling can call the center’s hotline at 866-644-2882.