As many news agencies are reporting on Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG) Chief Counsel Joshua Prince‘s letter to the City of Harrisburg, we believe it is important that everyone be aware of some of the issues being overlooked by the reporting.
As of this release, the reporting has failed to reflect that any such ordinance or regulation by a municipality or county is a violation of Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code, even absent the Act 192 amendments. Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6119, a violation of Section 6120, our state firearm preemption statute, is a misdemeanor of the first degree. This is the highest level misdemeanor that exists in the Commonwealth. In direct violation of the Crimes Code, Mayor Papenfuse has stated “The city’s not going to repeal its ordinances, because our police department feels that they are in the public interest, and I do too,” and Chief Carter said “officers regularly cite violators for reckless discharge of guns in the city and when minors are caught in possession of firearms.” It is unfortunate that our elected officials and law enforcement officers believe it is acceptable, and even gloat, that they are violating the Crimes Code by charging individuals, pursuant to illegal and unlawful ordinances and regulations.
Second, while some claim that such ordinances and regulations are in the best interest of the public, they have failed to show any statistical data that such ordinances and regulations deter/prevent crime or that other state level crimes, enacted by the General Assembly, are insufficient for prosecution. For example, if an individual recklessly discharges a firearm, depending on the circumstances, the individual can be charged with recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats, aggravated assault and simple assault, all of which have been enacted by the General Assembly, are not prohibited by Section 6120 and carry grading levels of both felonies and misdemeanors. If the ability to charge an individual with a felony is not sufficient to dissuade that individual from committing a crime, clearly a summary offense, the lowest grade criminal charging that exists within the Commonwealth, will be insufficient to deter that criminal.
More importantly, whether it benefits the public is immaterial because the General Assembly has preempted any such regulation, as previously held by the PA Supreme Court and Commonwealth Court. If a municipality or county desires to have the law changed, instead of violating the Crimes Code, it can petition its representatives for such an amendment to the law. Unfortunately, due to municipalities ignoring the dictate of the General Assembly and District Attorneys failing to prosecute those that violate Section 6120, the Legislature was left with no recourse but to enact Act 192.
While we applaud those municipalities and counties that are taking immediate corrective steps to rescind their illegal ordinances and regulations, it is unfortunate that others, such as the City of Harrisburg, City of Philadelphia and City of Pittsburgh, are actively promoting the violation of our Crimes Code. What message does that send to our youth and the public? Is it in the public’s interest to have our youth believe that our elected official are above the law and will not be held accountable? If the concern is truly about the public interest, it is time that our elected officials take responsibility or be held responsible for their actions.