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Pittsburgh's Peduto 'not offended' by criticism aimed at him by gun activists

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, 6:33 p.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he wasn’t offended by insults directed at him Monday by gun-rights activists rallying outside City Hall, including claims that he is a “traitor” and “commie” for pushing for tighter gun regulations.

Peduto on Tuesday said he purposely avoided the building during the rally on the advice of public safety officials who worried that his presence might inflame the crowd. Several hundred armed protesters directed insults at Peduto and City Council while rallying against the city’s gun-regulation proposals.

Peduto said he monitored the situation with a police scanner and phone calls and text messages from his chief of staff, police chief and public safety director.

“I was not offended,” he said. “I actually support people utilizing their First Amendment rights to protest. It was, I thought, a good demonstration of democratic action, even though I don’t agree with the opinion that was being expressed.”

Peduto and a majority of council members have proposed three bills that would ban certain semiautomatic weapons, firearms accessories and ammunition and permit courts to temporarily take away people’s guns if relatives or law enforcement determine they are a danger to themselves or others.

Activists argue that state law prohibits municipalities from regulating firearms and cite the Second Amendment as a “God-given” right to bear arms. They vowed to sue should council approve the bills, and they would have a good chance of succeeding, given that Republicans control the Pennsylvania Legislature and past decisions by state appellate courts have consistently upheld the state’s sole purview over gun laws.

Peduto said city residents have a right to protect themselves from violence such as the October massacre at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue, in which a man is accused of shooting and killing 11 worshippers. He said sentiment across the country is changing in the wake of repeated mass shootings and elected officials have no choice but to act.

“We are working with cities around the country that all share these same viewpoints, and we’re looking towards their support in building a unified voice with local organizations to lobby Congress for commonsense gun legislation this year,” he said. “I believe the vast majority of the people of Pittsburgh understand that no action is not the solution to this problem, that there’s a public health crisis and it requires action.”

Peduto noted that state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, is preparing a bill that would strike down the preemption law that gives the state the final say on gun laws, and he thinks it has a chance of passing.

“I do because I think it will be very difficult for Democrats to vote against it and Republicans — especially in the eastern part of the state that represent more moderate constituencies,” he said.

If a lawsuit over the city’s gun measures comes, Peduto said, he is prepared to defend against it, adding that city attorneys would handle the case at no additional cost to taxpayers. He said an outside firm — which he would not name — has offered to represent the city at no cost.

“Really won’t make that decision until the time that it would be necessary, but I have more than enough confidence in the attorneys that represent the city of Pittsburgh to have them carry the case.”

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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