Lawyers for the National Rifle Association and the city continued to battle it out in court yesterday over five local gun-control laws passed last month.
Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan, who may rule next week on whether to allow the laws to be enforced, has concerns with both sides.
She repeatedly suggested that the city is trying to enforce power that state appellate-court rulings say belongs only to the state.
"It is crystal-clear that this firearm regulation is in the hands of the state, not the city," Greenspan said during yesterday's hearing.
But Greenspan also questioned whether the NRA, representing its members, two firearm organizations, two gun shops and four gun owners, has legal standing to challenge three of the five laws.
The laws limit handgun purchases to one a month, make it a crime to not report a lost or stolen gun within 48 hours, allow police to confiscate guns with a judge's approval from people considered a danger to themselves or others, prohibit gun possession by people subject to protection-from-abuse orders and ban semiautomatic guns with clips that hold 10 or more rounds.
Greenspan issued a temporary restraining order last month to keep the city from enforcing the laws or developing regulations for them. Without that enforcement, Greenspan said, the NRA's clients face no threat from the laws that require the reporting of a lost or stolen gun or that allow police to confiscate guns from people who are a danger to themselves or the subject of protection-from-abuse orders.
The NRA has asked Greenspan to issue a permanent injunction and an order preventing the city from passing any more gun-control laws until the state allows it.
"There's absolutely no harm to anyone," Greenspan said after the NRA offered testimony from one gun owner who said he had never lost a gun or had one stolen, had never been the subject of an abuse order and did not consider himself a danger to himself or others.
The judge, in a previous hearing, seemed swayed by an NRA argument that the gun-shop owners had standing to challenge the two laws that ban sales of more than one handgun a month and guns that hold 10 or more rounds.
Before the hearing, Mayor Nutter accused the NRA of being "virtually criminal in their actions" for blocking gun-control laws.
He also criticized the two gun shops, Colosimo's Gun Center and The Firing Line, saying that both were known for multiple sales of guns to individuals in five-day spans.
Nutter said that "you don't have to be a rocket scientist" to know some legally purchased guns are later resold to people who are prohibited from owning them.
"I think you have to use common sense and your own moral decency to say: 'Why would I continue selling this person weapons?' " Nutter said. "It's clear that they probably are not using it for their own protection."
NRA attorney C. Scott Shields later accused Nutter of being a "tyrant" willing to cast gun-shops owners in a false light. "To suggest that they're engaging in unlawful trafficking of handguns is outrageous," Shields said.
The city ultimately hopes to take this fight to a higher court to provoke reconsideration of a 1996 state Supreme Court ruling that killed the city's last attempt at gun-control laws.
City Solicitor Shelley Smith yesterday said that she'd be ready with an appeal in a week to 10 days if Greenspan rules against the city. *