Philadelphia City Council is moving to suspend about a dozen gun laws that are not being enforced in the hope of improving the city's chance of protecting other provisions, such as the requirement that lost or stolen firearms be reported to police.
The city is being sued by the National Rifle Association over its gun ordinances, the result of a new and controversial state law that gives outside groups standing to file such litigation. More lawsuits are likely to be filed against the city, a city official testified Wednesday at a hearing on the bill to suspend the gun laws.
"We don't want the NRA to be able to point to a bunch of obsolete ordinances and suggest that City Council isn't thoughtful in its approach to gun legislation," said Richie Feder of the city Solicitor's Office.
Philadelphia is one of about 30 municipalities in the state with local gun laws. Many, including more than a half-dozen in Southeastern Pennsylvania, have repealed those laws or begun debating them since the new law passed in October. Philadelphia is one of several cities challenging the law in court, a fight Feder said he was confident would be successful.
In the interim, the city does not want to invite new lawsuits, said City Councilman William K. Greenlee, chairman of the committee that held Wednesday's hearing and approved the bill. Greenlee said the focus should be on the "the bigger fight ... the unconstitutionality of the state law."
The laws that could be suspended, which are not being enforced in most cases because of the state's preemption on gun laws, cover topics including the sale of ammunition to minors, the storage and display of firearms by dealers, and the carrying of firearms in public places.
Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, testified in support of the bill but asked Council to consider not suspending a provision that gives police broader authority to ban possession of guns by people with an active protection-from-abuse order.
The committee did not make that amendment but, at Feder's suggestion, amended the bill so the mayor would retain authority to prohibit the possession of firearms on the streets in a state of emergency. "On reflection, I'm not prepared to say that in a true emergency, the City of Philadelphia and the mayor shouldn't have that power," Feder said.
The bill would suspend the laws temporarily - in the hope that the Legislature would permit local gun regulations. The bill will have a first reading before the full Council on Thursday and could be voted on as soon as next week.