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Problems with Pittsburgh’s proposed gun control ordinance |
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Problems with Pittsburgh’s proposed gun control ordinance

John R. Lott Jr.
| Tuesday, January 15, 2019 11:28 a.m

Pennsylvania’s 1.3 million concealed handgun permit holders may soon be considered criminals while visiting Pittsburgh. The proposed gun control ordinance bans everything from so-called assault weapons to starter pistols for track meets.

The ordinance prohibits citizens from carrying guns except on their property or in their homes or “fixed place of business.” There is an exception to the ban that would allow permit holders to carry, but there is just one problem. The exception clause refers to and depends on a nonexistent statute.

Is this an honest mistake or an underhanded way to ban concealed carry? The mayor and city council members have been informed of the “mistake” multiple times, but have refused to rewrite the ordinance. The result will be a ban on carrying guns for any reason outside of one’s home or business.

If you don’t have that permit, you will be committing a crime by taking a gun from a gun store to your home. Pittsburgh police could simply wait in gun store parking lots and arrest most of the people when they leave the store.

But the ban doesn’t stop at real guns. It also encompasses, “Any toy, antique, starter pistol or other object that bears a reasonable resemblance to an operable firearm, or any object that impels a projectile by means of a spinning action, compression or CO2 cartridge.” Your 10-year-old son will be committing a crime by carrying a brightly-colored Nerf gun. No one would ever confuse such a toy with a real gun, but it fires a foam projectile and is thus covered by the ordinance.

Some parts of the ordinance are useless, such as the requirement that people show a photo ID to any individual or business that they buy ammunition from. Even assuming that the seller remembers whom he sold the ammunition to, what would the police do with that information?

The assault weapons ban is just as pointless. It is modeled after the federal ban that was in place from September 1994 to September 2004. Peer-reviewed papers by economists and criminologists have failed to find a benefit from the federal law.

None of the weapons banned under the 1994 legislation or the proposed Pittsburgh ordinance are “military” weapons. The killer at the Pittsburgh synagogue used a Colt AR-15 rifle and three Glock .357 handguns. The Colt AR-15 bears a cosmetic resemblance to the M-16, which has been used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. The call has frequently been made by Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Bill Peduto there is “no reason” for such “military-style weapons” to be available to civilians.

Yes, the Colt AR-15 rifle is a “military-style weapon.” But the key word is “style” — it is cosmetically similar to military guns, not in the way it operates. The guns covered by the federal ban and the proposed ordinance are not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military, but semiautomatic versions of those guns.

At least there would be some logic to banning all semiautomatic guns, rather than listing specific models to ban based on how they look. Semiautomatic weapons also protect people and save lives. Single-shot rifles may not do a lot of good when facing multiple criminals or when a first shot misses or fails to stop an attacker.

Pittsburgh’s proposed ordinance is poorly written. Possibly that was the intent so as to create an even more extensive set of gun bans than anyone intended, but the real victims will be the defenseless law-abiding citizens of Pittsburgh.

John R. Lott Jr. is president of the
Crime Prevention Research Center and
author of “More Guns, Less Crime”
(University of Chicago Press, 2010).

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