Residents argue for and against Pittsburgh gun ban during public hearing | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Residents argue for and against Pittsburgh gun ban during public hearing

Bob Bauder

video

Scores of people stood for hours Thursday night in a reconfigured first floor of Pittsburgh’s City-County Building to argue for three minutes each for or against the city’s proposed firearms ban.

They included military veterans, attorneys, moms, dads, friends of people killed in Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, and a 6-year-old who pleaded for protection. There were 101 people registered to speak.

Gun activists condemned Pittsburgh City Council and Mayor Bill Peduto for proposing legislation that would ban certain semi-automatic rifles and firearms ammunition and accessories from within city limits.

A third bill would allow courts to temporarily remove guns from a person deemed to be a threat.

Opponents cited a state law that prohibits municipalities from regulating firearms. They threatened to file criminal charges against council members and the mayor if the bills are approved.

“You are advocating lawlessness and creating a mandate for civil disobedience,” said Val Finnell of Kennedy Township. “Our rights are not up for compromise or discussion. We demand that you withdraw all of these illegal ordinances or face criminal charges.”

Walter Gibson of North Versailles said his father was fatally shot in 1979, but said he supports gun ownership.

“The blame lies with the coward who shot my father from behind,” he said. “I have guns. It’s patently unfair for you to try to punish me for the actions of others.”

Supporters of the legislation said it’s time for government to take action.

Carolyn Ban of Squirrel Hill, a member of the Dor Hadash congregation that worships at Tree of Life, recounted the tragedy and said semi-automatic rifles should be banned.

“In the face of this attack, we have come together to say, ‘Enough — No more mass murder,” she said. “Ideally, we do this at the national level, but that is not happening. Nor is it happening on the state level. It is necessary to start at the local level to stand up against the scourge of weapons.”

Hannah Dworin, 6, of Churchill said she and other students at Community Day School in Squirrel Hill have been afraid since the Tree of Life shootings.

“I hope you will help protect me and the other kids at Community Day School by stopping people from getting guns,” she said.

City officials said they took the unprecedented step of holding the hearing on the first floor because of a 200-person occupancy limit in Council Chambers, where public hearings are normally held, and to ensure public safety. Numerous police officers were stationed throughout the crowd and the building. Police reported no incidents or arrests. The hearing ended just before 10 p.m.

Council members sat at tables forming a U at the Grant Street end of the building. Speakers were required to stand in a line designated by rope barriers before offering testimony.

“You can’t hear anything at all back here,” said Nicholas Wells of Pittsburgh’s North Side, who was waiting with several friends in back of the line.

Council President Bruce Kraus of the South Side threatened at the beginning of the hearing to have disorderly spectators removed.

“This is an official hearing of Pittsburgh City Council,” he said. “Everyone who is here has the right to have council hear their comment in an environment that is not threatening. This is not theater.”

Earlier in the day, Joshua Prince, an attorney with Firearms Industry Consulting Group, wrote a letter on behalf of the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League and Firearm Owners Against Crime, demanding that the hearing be moved to Council Chambers. He said he received no response from council.

“The sole purpose of moving the public hearing form the chamber to the lobby seems to be designed to suppress the voices of those wishing to be heard while precluding the public from being able to watch the public hearing,” he wrote in part.


Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.


Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .


672020_web1_PTR-PublicGunHearing04-012519
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Val Finnell, of Kennedy Township, voices his opposition of the proposed gun-control legislation during a public hearing inside of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, 2019.
672020_web1_PTR-PublicGunHearing02-012519
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Carolyn Ban, a member of the Dor Hadash congregation, speaks before the Pittsburgh City Council at a public hearing inside of the City-County Building on Jan. 24, 2019.
672020_web1_PTR-PublicGunHearing03-012519
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
George Kniss, of Moon Township, speaks in favor of proposed gun-control legislation during a public hearing inside of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, 2019.
672020_web1_PTR-PublicGunHearing01-012519
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Proposed legislation is read prior to the start of the public comment on a public hearing inside of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, 2019.
672020_web1_PTR-PublicGunHearing05-012519
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Speakers address Pittsburgh City Council regarding the proposed gun-control legislation during a public hearing inside of the City-County Building on Jan. 24, 2019.
672020_web1_PTR-PublicGunHearing06-012519
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Speakers comment on proposed gun-control legislation during a public hearing inside of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, 2019.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.