Waiting for the Next Massacre

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that 3 gun control ordinances enacted by the City of Pittsburgh were void.  The ordinances prohibited assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and empowered courts to take away guns from those who posed an imminent threat to themselves or others.  These ordinances were passed after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. 

Three gun rights groups sued to stop enforcement of the ordinances.

Pennsylvania has a state law which prevents any local regulation of guns.  43 states, including Texas, have a similar state law. 

The judge in Pennsylvania said the state law “pre-empts” the Pittsburgh ordinances.  This ruling was not unexpected.  The City of Pittsburgh intends to appeal. 

While the ruling may have been expected by legal observers, the fierce determination of the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, to do something about gun violence was what caught my eye. 

Mayor Peduto said he was aware of the legal hurdles, “But we feel we have to do something to change the temperature in Harrisburg (the capital).  If this were to be followed by 50 other cities around Pennsylvania doing the same thing, it puts pressure on the state legislators to act.  We feel it’s worth the legal fight.

“So there’s this realization that it’s an uphill battle, but it’s a battle that has to happen, and it has to start somewhere.  I really do believe it’s going to happen by cities saying enough’s enough. 

“If you’re going to try and stop us from doing it ourselves, we’re going to go to court and we’re going to do it over and over until common sense prevails.”

Mayor Peduto also said that the Constitution gave the residents of Pittsburgh the right to domestic peace and tranquility, and that gun violence takes away that right.  He’s got a good point.  How do we “insure domestic tranquility…” and “promote the general welfare” while respecting the right to bear arms?  Isn’t there a middle ground?  Does it have to be all or nothing?

In Connecticut, that state’s highest court is allowing a case to go forward against Remington, the firearm manufacturer that made and distributed the assault weapon used in the Sandy Hook massacre of elementary school children.  Connecticut, like most states, has a law that essentially grants immunity from liability to gun manufacturers whose products are used by criminals to kill and injure.  However, lawyers for the families of victims are relying upon Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practice Act by alleging that Remington recklessly marketed the assault rifle to disturbed young men through placement in violent video games and other provocative advertising.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled this case can proceed to trial, which was a surprise.  It will be very interesting to learn from the evidence adduced at the trial of this case how assault rifles have been marketed.  If Remington loses the case, further appeals are certain.

A very strong majority of people in this country want something done about gun violence.  Thanks to Mitch McConnel’s fecklessness, the federal government won’t act.  McConnell is refusing to bring a House gun bill to a vote in the Senate and his fellow Republican Senators are thankful they don’t have to publicly vote and risk the wrath of either the NRA or their constituents.  The state legislatures are similarly afflicted.  They don’t want to do anything, but they want to make darn sure that cities, the governmental entities closest to the people, can’t do anything.

In the meanwhile, we wait for the next massacre and we wait for the pressure that Mayor Peduto speaks of to continue to build from the ground up.  When will the dam break?