Third Class City Code Reenacted with Firearm Protections

Like to most Pennsylvanians, it is probably a surprise to our readers that the Third Class City Code, 53 P.S. § 35101, et seq., was up for reenactment, as it was set to expire. Yesterday, March 19, 2014, Governor Corbett signed the re-codification, SB 497, into law.

Few would even take note of the re-codification but it was on our radar, as there were provisions within the Third Class City Code, which could be argued, if reenacted, to trump our right to conceal carry pursuant to a valid license to carry firearms and to trump our firearm and ammunition preemption statute that is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120. Therefore, we worked with Firearm Owners Against Crime and the Legislature to ensure that our firearm preemption statute was not infringed.

Under the previous version, enacted in the 1930s, the Third Class City Code in 53 P.A. 37403 (26) provided

Regulate guns, et cetera.–To regulate, prohibit, and prevent the discharge of guns, rockets, powder, or any other dangerous instrument or combustible material within the city, and to prevent the carrying of concealed deadly weapons.

The Legislature would thereafter in 1995 enact Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6101, et seq., which included provisions dealing with the concealed carrying of firearms in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109  and firearm and ammunition preemption in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120. Section 6120 specifically provides

(a) General rule.–No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.

Our concern was that if the Third Class City Code was reenacted, there would exist arguments, under Pennsylvania’s Statutory Construction Act, 1 Pa.C.S. § 1501, et seq., that the Third Class City Code would trump Sections 6109 and 6120. Pursuant to 1 Pa.C.S. § 1936

Whenever the provisions of two or more statutes enacted finally by different General Assemblies are irreconcilable, the statute latest in date of final enactment shall prevail.

Further, under 1 Pa.C.S. § 1933

Whenever a general provision in a statute shall be in conflict with a special provision in the same or another statute, the two shall be construed, if possible, so that effect may be given to both. If the conflict between the two provisions is irreconcilable, the special provisions shall prevail and shall be construed as an exception to the general provision, unless the general provision shall be enacted later and it shall be the manifest intention of the General Assembly that such general provision shall prevail.

Therefore, we worked with Firearm Owners Against Crime and the Legislature to ensure that the legislative intent in enacting Sections 6109 and 6120 was not encroached upon. While far from perfect (and we did attempt to strengthen the language, have the discharge portion removed and have knives excluded), we were able to have the language changed in the new Section 2423 to

Regulate Discharge of Guns and Deadly Weapons.–To the extent permitted by Federal and other State law, council may regulate, prohibit, prevent the discharge of guns and prevent the carrying of concealed deadly weapons. (emphasis added)

By including the above language, the Legislature clearly indicated that Sections 6109 and 6120 still apply and therefore, third class municipalities may not regulate the concealed carrying of firearms and ammunition. As some may be aware or remember from our litigation in Dillon v. City of Erie, the City of Erie is a City of the Third Class. The Legislature, aware of the Erie litigation, wanted to ensure that no argument existed that it could regulate, in any manner, the possession and transport of firearms and ammunition.

We greatly appreciate all the hard work of Firearms Owners Against Crime and the Legislature in ensuring that our inalienable right to keep and bear arms was not encroached upon by cities of the third class.

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