Pennsylvania lawsuit challenges capital city’s gun rules

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – Two Pennsylvania residents on Tuesday sued the state’s capital city seeking to force it to repeal five gun-control ordinances, under a new state law intended to stop local governments from adopting tighter rules than are in place statewide.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city of Harrisburg said they believe their suit to be the first filed under a state law that took effect on Jan. 5 and gave state residents the standing to challenge local gun laws in any municipality in the state, even if they do not live there.

“The capital city must follow the laws that the capital passes,” plaintiff Justin McShane said in a statement. “It is time for Harrisburg to learn that it is not above the law.”

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said in late December that the city would not back down to threats of lawsuits from gun groups, despite the city’s precarious financial state. Harrisburg emerged from receivership less than a year ago.

City spokeswoman Joyce Davis on Tuesday declined to comment on the suit, filed in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas in Harrisburg, saying officials had not yet seen it.

The law, Act 192, also gives plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging local gun laws the right to recover their legal fees if they win. It also allows gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association to bring lawsuits challenging local gun laws, so long as they have at least one member living in Pennsylvania.

McShane, a lawyer who is representing himself in the case, gave the Harrisburg suburb of Linglestown as his address in the suit. The second plaintiff, retired State Police Corporal Todd Hoover, lives about 60 miles (100 km) north of Harrisburg.

U.S. Law Shield of Pennsylvania, the local chapter of a Texas-based organization that sells insurance to gun owners, is also listed as a plaintiff.

The suit challenges Harrisburg ordinances requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms, prohibiting possession of guns in city parks and public display of guns during citywide emergencies, banning gun sales within the city, and outlawing possession of firearms by children under 18.

Democratic state Senator Daylin Leach of Norristown, one of the plaintiffs in a November lawsuit seeking to overturn Act 192 on constitutional grounds, criticized the new lawsuit.

“This is unlike any law in any other state,” Leach said. “It was a complete, outrageous gift to the NRA.”

(Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)

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