PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday from plaintiffs in Philadelphia who filed a lawsuit in October 2020 challenging the state’s firearm preemption law.
“We want to be able to leave our homes without fear of being shot,” Jameet Ahuja, the plaintiff’s attorney said.
The lawsuit falls under the state’s 1975 preemption law, which only allows Pennsylvania to pass gun regulations. The plaintiffs argue that municipalities, like Philadelphia — which has a significantly higher rate of gun violence compared to the remainder of the Commonwealth — should have the right to pass independent gun regulations.
The plaintiffs also claim the law violates the Pennsylvania State Constitution, which provides the right to “life and liberty.”
“The rates of firearm violence and death in Philadelphia is, I would say, unparalleled except for Chicago, and frankly, no one wants that comparison,” Ahuja said.
Because of that, the lawsuit argues municipalities should and are capable of writing their own gun laws.
“It can be chaotic, but it’s not unprecedented,” Dickinson College President and former Federal Judge John Jones said. “For example, you [could] have a certain set of gun laws in Cumberland County, but then you cross the bridge into Dauphin County and you’re subject to different laws.”
At the Wednesday hearing, some state justices questioned the legal soundness of the plaintiff’s argument. Judge Kevin Brobson claimed it was built around emotional rhetoric.
“The countervailing argument is that the state has an interest in uniformity of its gun laws,” Jones said.
The case may now head to a lower court to be tried. Originally, it was struck down by the Commonwealth Court 3-2, but the plaintiffs appealed the decision.