Taking on Gun Safety Preemption in Pennsylvania


Op-ed: Philly needs to enact its own gun laws. We sued Harrisburg to let that happen.

For years, Philadelphia has passed local laws that would save lives, only to be blocked by the General Assembly in Harrisburg. So we took them to court.

By Ben Geffen & Mimi McKenzie
October 14, 2022–“When a child cannot leave his home to walk to the corner of his street without risking the prospect of being caught in a crossfire, we are denying him the most fundamental right, that of life and liberty.”

That statement, from Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court on Feb. 14, has never been more true in Philadelphia than it is today.

More than 180 of our children have been shot so far this year. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for young Black men and youth in Philadelphia, and this violence is concentrated in communities that have faced decades of disinvestment and segregation.

Philadelphia’s gun violence is both a public health emergency and a civil rights issue.

In the face of this crisis, state legislative leaders in Harrisburg have handcuffed local governments, forbidding Philadelphia from adopting or enforcing citywide policies that will save lives, all while refusing to enact statewide gun safety laws. By doing so, the legislature is denying the right to life and liberty guaranteed in the Pennsylvania Constitution in communities that disproportionately face gun violence.

We are suing to change that. And we aren’t giving up.