Hundreds of protesters, many armed, rally in Pittsburgh against gun restrictions
Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday in Pittsburgh's Downtown to rally against proposed restrictions on guns and ammunition.
The bills would ban semi-automatic rifles and certain ammunition and firearms accessories within city limits.
The crowd carried signs, waved flags and had rifles slung across their shoulders. They chanted "USA" and "We will not comply" and cheered the police officers and other public safety officials monitoring the rally.
"Yinz can't take it" pic.twitter.com/zpCihCkJVK— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) January 7, 2019
State Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Ellwood City, called the proposed gun legislation a "clear violation" of law by the mayor and "political stunts" by the District Attorney.
"Don't go after the Constitution," Bernstine said. "Go after the criminals."
Pittsburgh City Council introduced the ordinances last month in wake of a mass shooting on Oct. 27 at Squirrel Hill's Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 worshippers were killed.
The proposed ban drew immediate outcry from gun rights activists who contend the restrictions violate Pennsylvania law. State law prohibits municipalities from regulating firearms. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld the preemption in multiple cases, including a 10-year-old city ordinance that would require the reporting of lost or stolen handguns.
Pittsburgh police have never enforced the ordinance because of the preemption.
Rep. @AaronBernstine called the proposed gun legislation a "clear violation" of law by the mayor and "political stunts" by the District Attorney.— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) January 7, 2019
"We will not comply" chant goes up now pic.twitter.com/GBYd8Q13N0— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) January 7, 2019
Grant Street, Pittsburgh pic.twitter.com/i0IF6QmONB— Bob Bauder (@bobbauder) January 7, 2019
Gun rights rally getting underway in front of the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh. Rally is in protest of proposed gun legislation from Mayor Bill Peduto pic.twitter.com/qrElkW2FZ5— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) January 7, 2019
"Let's have good situational awareness," organizer says. pic.twitter.com/28xNGtzIsY— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) January 7, 2019
Justin Dillon, 32, of Erie organized the rally in front of the City-County Building. Dillon is the founder of the advocacy group Open Carry Pennsylvania. He said he expects as many as 1,000 people and many of them — including himself — would be legally armed.
"We're coming together to say that what they're trying to propose is not right," Dillon has said. "It's against the law."
Officials said numerous police offices would be posted in and outside the City-County Building during the protest and Peduto Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the city would consider closing Grant Street.
"It's not the first time that we've had events that have been controversial or even where there have been counter protests at the (City-County Building)," Peduto has said. "It differs because of the amount of weaponry that will be in a very small area of the city. There will be officers there not only to monitor that situation, but also to protect the right of those protesting the protest."
Someone just shouted, "Come and take it, Bill."— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) January 7, 2019
The city and gun rights activists already clashed over signs put up around the City-County Building last week stating that firearms are not allowed inside the building. The original signs did not include information about the availability of lockers for weapons. When the city posted new signs, they were criticized for being obscured and difficult to see.