Pittsburgh appeals judge's rejection of firearm restrictions

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Attorneys for the city of Pittsburgh are asking a state court to overturn a judge's order striking down firearm restrictions approved after a 2018 mass shooting at a synagogue.

The three ordinances were approved in April 2019 following the October 2018 mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that killed 11 worshippers. Gun rights advocates fought the ordinances, and a judge struck down the measures in October, saying Pennsylvania law forbids municipalities from regulating firearms and the ordinances were “void and unenforceable.”

City lawyers argue in briefs filed late last week that neither lawmakers nor the state's highest court had ever “expressly said or held that cities are completely powerless to act in this area." They said local governments' authority to regulate firearms to protect citizens “may be limited, but it is not extinguished.”

The ordinances would have restricted military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle authorities said was used in the attack. They would also have banned most uses of armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines and allowed temporary seizure of guns from those deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Joshua Prince, an attorney with Berks County-based Civil Rights Defense Firm, which represented the plaintiffs, said Pittsburgh is spending taxpayer money on a “frivolous appeal regarding its illegal ordinances.”

“The example that this sets for our youth — that it is acceptable to violate the law if you do not agree with it, instead of petitioning to have the law changed — is a stark reminder that the city and its elected officials believe they are above the law,” he told the Tribune-Review.

Pittsburgh tried enforcing an assault-weapons ban in 1993, but the state Legislature quickly took action to invalidate the measure, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that city officials had overstepped.