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Allegheny

Pittsburgh warns City Hall visitors that guns are prohibited in building

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, 2:42 p.m.
A sign outside the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh reminds visitors that weapons are not permitted in the building.
A sign outside the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh reminds visitors that weapons are not permitted in the building.

Pittsburgh began preparing Wednesday for an armed protest scheduled for Monday outside the City-County Building by posting signs for a first time warning visitors that weapons are not permitted inside the Downtown building.

Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said firearms have always been prohibited in the Grant Street building, which houses Pittsburgh City Hall and two floors of county courtrooms.

He said officials posted the signs to remind people.

As many as 1,000 people could show up Monday to rally against Pittsburgh’s proposed gun ban, said Justin Dillon, 32, of Erie, who organized the protest. Dillon said more than 500 people have signed up for the noon event, some coming from as far away as Chicago and South Carolina. Dillon urged participants in social media posts to openly carry firearms, which is legal under Pennsylvania law.

“It doesn’t really bother us at all that they’re putting signs up,” Dillon said. “I think they’re just preparing to make sure no one walks in there. We’re going to be respectful to their wishes.”

The sandwich board signs are outside building entrances on Grant and Ross streets.

“We are aware that there are people coming in on Monday that aren’t in the city that often or the City-County Building that often,” McNulty said. “We wanted to make sure the rules are clear.”

City Council in December introduced several bills that would ban semiautomatic rifles and certain ammunition and firearms accessories within city limits. Council expects to hold a public hearing before voting on the bills in February.

Gun rights advocates have widely criticized Pittsburgh for proposing the ordinances in the wake of a mass shooting in October at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue, arguing that Pennsylvania law prohibits municipalities from enacting gun regulations. Organizations have vowed to sue the city should council approve the ban.

Dillon noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the state preemption law.

“If (Mayor Bill Peduto) wants to waste taxpayer money on something that isn’t going to get much traction, well, he can do it,” Dillon said. “The state Supreme Court ruled on preemption multiple times.”

Pittsburgh for more than a decade has been prevented from enforcing an ordinance requiring the reporting of lost or stolen handguns because of the preemption.

Peduto, a sponsor of that ordinance, has said the gun ban is necessary to protect the safety and welfare of Pittsburgh residents. He vowed to build a coalition among municipalities across the nation to fend off legal challenges.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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