Pittsburgh Council amends proposed firearms ordinances
Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday attached 2,200 pages of academic data on gun violence to proposed legislation that would ban certain firearms, ammunition and accessories from within city limits.
Council members said the information, including peer reviewed academic studies and Congressional testimony, would help them draft amendments for the gun bans and bolster their position that regulations are necessary.
It could also help in court if the city is sued over the regulations, according to Councilman Corey O’Connor of Swisshelm Park, one of the main sponsors.
“Maybe,” he said when asked if the legislation would help the city’s legal position. He declined to comment further on potential litigation.
Gun owners have vowed to sue the city and file criminal charges against council members and Mayor Bill Peduto if the legislation is approved. Pennsylvania law prohibits municipalities from regulating firearms.
Council has introduced, but has yet to vote on three bills that would ban certain semi-automatic weapons, ammunition and accessories. The legislation includes a so-called “red flag” ordinance that would permit police and household members to petition a court for removal of a person’s firearms if the person is deemed a threat.
The legislation was introduced following the October murders of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
Members amended the legislation to attach the documents during a meeting where representatives of UPMC and CeaseFirePa advocated for passage of the legislation during a public comment period.
“Firearm violence is a public health issue, and as a violence prevention researcher and adolescent medicine physician, I’m very committed to ensuring the safety of all children, adolescents and adults residing in the city,” said Dr. Alison Culyba, a UPMC pediatrician who has provided care to child victims of gun violence. “We know that legislation can have an impact on firearm access and firearm deaths.”
She said regulating firearms is one way to reduce gun violence. Others include investment in neighborhoods to create safe spaces for residents and positive programs for children.
Two council members — Darlene Harris of Spring Hill and Theresa Kail-Smith of Westwood — abstained from a vote to attach the data. All other members voted yes.
Kail-Smith questioned whether the city has authority to enforce the ordinances, considering the preemptive state law.
“I, from day one, thought the intent was good. There was also a part of me that thought it was politically driven,” Kail-Smith said. “No one disagrees that we should have some changes in the gun laws, but I think that the question is not whether gun violence is horrible. The question is do we have the ability to do this.”
Harris said council does not have authority to regulate firearms.
“No gun bills should be at this table,” she said. “They will be useless because they are state laws. The city cannot make any guns laws.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .