Pennsylvania municipalities can breathe a sigh of relief. The Commonwealth Court declared Act 192 unconstitutional and void in a decision penned by Judge Simpson and announced today. Judge Simpson also made it clear that the Commonwealth is enjoined from enforcing any provisions of Act 192 or taking any actions in accordance with Act 192. All seven sitting Judges joined in the result, although Judge McCullough concurred in part and dissented in part.
Act 192, which became effective on January 5, 2015, amended the Uniform Firearms Act to create a civil cause of action for a broad class of individuals and organizations seeking to challenge municipal firearms legislation, and authorized an award of attorney’s fees to successful challengers. Following Act 192’s enactment, gun owners and advocacy groups swiftly brought suits challenging municipal ordinances across the state. Those suits have now been stopped in their tracks.
What does this mean for municipalities? First, remain vigilant. Because the case was brought in the original jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court, the losing parties have an automatic right of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which they will likely exercise. Second, the ruling does not mean that local municipalities have the right to enact firearm ordinances that contravene statewide firearm laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act. Municipalities should still review their firearm ordinances to ensure they are not preempted by state law. That said, now that the fear of imminent litigation and attorney’s fees awards has been lifted, municipalities will have the opportunity to do so in a thoughtful and thorough manner.
Stay tuned for an update as the case proceeds forward.