DA: Peduto, Pittsburgh leaders can’t yet be charged over gun bills
Pittsburgh must first cite someone for violating the city’s gun legislation before the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office will consider private criminal complaints alleging Mayor Bill Peduto and six City Council members broke state law by passing the controversial bills, an official from the district attorney’s office said.
Seven city residents and several others attempted Friday to file charges in Pittsburgh Municipal Court against Peduto and the council members, but were turned away by Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
Manko noted that the three gun ordinances approved by council and signed on Wednesday by Peduto have yet to go into effect.
“What we’re saying is if somebody does get cited, at that time we will consider a private criminal complaint,” he told the group.
Second Amendment supporters contend the bills violate the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions and a state law prohibiting municipalities from regulating firearms. They contend Peduto and council violated the state law by passing the bills and are guilty of misdemeanor counts including criminal contempt, solicitation, conspiracy and official oppression.
Pittsburgh faces three lawsuits filed by the National Rifle Association, Firearm Owners Against Crime and the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League seeking a court injunction to quash the legislation and to have Peduto and the council members held in contempt of court.
The legislation consists of three bills. One would ban the possession and use of certain semi-automatic weapons, including assault rifles. A second would ban ammunition and accessories, such as large- capacity magazines. A third bill, dubbed “extreme risk protection,” would permit courts to temporarily remove guns from a person deemed to be a public threat and impose penalties on an adult who allows a child to access a gun illegally.
They take effect in 60 days.
City residents who currently own guns and accessories outlined in the bills would be grandfathered.
Violators would face a civil penalty that carries a $1,000 fine for each offense. The bills original contained a possible penalty of 90 days in jail but that was stricken by an amendment.
“They’re going to force me to fall on a sword to move this forward?” said Anthony Golembiewski, 63, of Lawrenceville. “It’s very obvious to all of us city residents that the mayor broke the law the day he signed that document, stood up and said, ‘This is law.’ The state preemption says clearly he’s not allowed to do this. Why is the DA kicking this down the road past Election Day?”
Zappala, who is seeking re-election, faces a Democratic challenger in the May primary election. Manko said the politics played no part in the DA’s refusal to accept the complaints.
“If it’s 60 days, 180 days — whatever it takes — we will be back,” said Val Finnell, 50, of Kennedy, an outspoken critic of the bills.
Finnell attempted in January to file complaints against Peduto and council before the gun bills were approved, but the DA’s Office said then there was insufficient evidence that a crime had been committed.
“Now the DA’s moved the goal posts, and he’s actually expecting someone to actually violate the law and stick their neck out and suffer personal consequences in order to challenge this,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .