Commonwealth Court has upheld a decision striking down two Philadelphia gun laws, setting up a likely showdown in the state Supreme Court over the city's ability to regulate firearms.
At issue were a law banning assault weapons and another limiting handgun purchases to one per month, both passed in 2008.
The ruling upheld a Common Pleas Court ruling that struck down the laws on the grounds that they were pre-empted by state law.
City attorneys will likely appeal to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in 1996 that the state and not the city has the exclusive right to regulate firearms.
City attorney Richard Feder said that some of the reasoning in the Commonwealth Court opinion was encouraging and "will make for a very strong argument [for the city] if this case gets to the Supreme Court."
National Rifle Association attorney Scott Shields said that the high court's 1996 ruling clearly said that the city couldn't make its own gun laws, but "the city is hoping that a different composition of the court will come up with a different result. That's the wrong way for law to be made."
Some confusion exists about the status of three other city gun laws enacted last year. Yesterday's decision upheld a Common Pleas court ruling that the NRA lacked the standing to challenge them, so city officials regard them as valid.
But in a separate case brought by two City Council members, Commonwealth Court concluded that the city lacked the authority to pass all five laws.
Feder said yesterday that the city wasn't a party to that suit and wasn't bound by the decision.
Shields said that if the city were to charge anyone with violations of those laws, litigation would follow. They require owners to report promptly the theft or loss of a gun, to bar persons bound by protection-from-abuse orders from getting guns and to allow the city to take guns away from someone regarded as an imminent threat to himself or others.
It's likely that the fate of all five ordinances will be decided together by the state Supreme Court. *
Staff writers Chris Brennan and Catherine Lucey contributed to this story.