Taking on Gun Safety Preemption in Pennsylvania


Oral argument at the PA Supreme Court scheduled in case challenging state firearm preemption that blocks local gun safety laws

July 13, 2023 – Today, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania scheduled oral argument for an appeal in our case challenging state firearm preemption laws. Oral argument will be held on Wednesday, September 13 at 9:00 a.m. in Philadelphia City Hall, Courtroom 456. We will ask the PA Supreme Court to reverse Commonwealth Court’s previous dismissal of our case and send the case back to the lower court for discovery and trial.

Firearm preemption laws, maintained for decades by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, handcuff local governments so that they cannot enact or enforce even simple, well-researched policies that have been repeatedly shown to save lives—while our leaders in Harrisburg also refuse to enact statewide gun safety laws.

With co-counsel from Hogan Lovells, we are representing residents of Philadelphia and Allegheny County who have lost family members to gun violence and CeaseFirePA. The City of Philadelphia, represented by the Philadelphia Law Department, is also a petitioner in the case. Together, we argue that by standing in the way of meaningful local action against gun violence while refusing to take action statewide, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly are violating the fundamental right to life and liberty under the state constitution for Pennsylvanians in communities that face endemic gun violence. This crisis disproportionately impacts low-income and minority communities—in 2022, 77% of shooting victims in Philadelphia were Black.

The case was filed in October 2020. In May 2022, Commonwealth Court dismissed the case in a fractured decision, with three judges favoring dismissal and two dissenting. One of the three judges supporting the judgment noted in a concurring opinion that she felt constrained to uphold firearm preemption laws under precedent, but that local conditions may justify stricter gun safety measures. The judge approvingly quoted a concurring opinion issued in another firearm regulation case, noting that it is not “consistent with simple humanity to deny basic safety regulations to citizens who desperately need them.”