Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Hearing on Philadelphia's gun-control laws postponed

A hearing Monday on a challenge to the constitutionality of Philadelphia's new gun-control laws has been postponed until May 19.

A hearing Monday on a challenge to the constitutionality of Philadelphia's new gun-control laws has been postponed until May 19.

Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan rescheduled the hearing after a telephone conference this week with lawyers for the city and National Rifle Association, according to court records.

C. Scott Shields, the Media lawyer who filed the suit for the Fairfax, Va.-based NRA, said the delay was to give lawyers for the city more time to decide if they will challenge "standing" - the legal right of the NRA to file the suit.

In addition to the NRA, the lawsuit's plaintiffs include the National Shooting Sports Foundation; the Pennsylvania Association of Firearms Retailers; Colosimo's and Firing Line Inc., two city gun shops; and several individuals.

At an April 17 hearing at which Greenspan granted an order temporarily blocking enforcement of the gun-control laws, the judge said she had misgivings about the organizations' standing to sue. Generally, organizations cannot file a constitutional challenge without showing how their members are directly harmed by the law in question.

At that hearing, Shields argued that the two city gun dealers and the individuals would all be harmed if the gun laws were enforced.

Mark R. Zecca, a senior attorney with the city Law Department who is representing the city, declined to comment.

Shields filed suit April 15, asking for an emergency order blocking enforcement of a package of five gun laws enacted April 10 by City Council and signed the same day by Mayor Nutter.

Nutter said the new gun laws are needed to spark the public and legal debate about how to deal with the epidemic of violence in the city that last year resulted in 393 homicides and 1,734 shootings.

City officials say they hope a legal challenge will convince the state Supreme Court to reexamine its 1996 decision in

Ortiz v. Commonwealth

. That case invalidated a city ordinance regulating assault weapons, with the state's high court ruling that the state legislature in 1994 passed a law that specifically barred municipalities from regulating guns.

Because of the Ortiz ruling, District Attorney Lynne Abraham said she cannot legally enforce the new gun laws.

City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith said she believes the new laws will be able to pass Supreme Court review.

The five laws would:

Permit authorities to seek a judge's order to take guns from people proven to be a risk to themselves or others.

Ban from gun ownership those who are subject to a protection from abuse order.

Give gun owners 24 hours to report to police after discovering the loss or theft of their gun.

Ban possession or sale of assault or contraband firearms in the city.

Limit gun purchases to one a month and require buyers to get a police certification they have not bought another gun in the last month.