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Firearm ordinances in Pittsburgh City Council standing committee

In response to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last Oct., the Pittsburgh City Council along with Mayor Bill Peduto moved swiftly to propose an array of five new firearm regulations. Though these types of regulations are being considered across the country, some Pittsburgh residents worry the ordinances might not lead to proper enforcement.

The ordinances proposed amend past wording in Pittsburgh gun legislation and replace certain sections “to update existing laws to meet the public safety needs of residents,” as well as adding a new section “to place a prohibition on certain firearm accessories, ammunition, and modifications,” according to the Pittsburgh City Council’s public records.

Specifically addressed in the legislation are assault weapons, including those similar to the AR-15 style rifle used in the Tree of Life shooting, as well as modifications to other types of weapons that increase their load capacity. Other accessories, like the bump stocks that were used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 and injured 851, are banned in the proposed Pittsburgh legislation.

Not all Pittsburgh residents are in favor of the legislation. Peduto told The Washington Post that he viewed a lot of the opposition as coming from outside of the city, “where they don’t have homicides on a continuous basis and where guns are viewed in a different social context.”

Some gun control advocates from just outside of Pittsburgh, as well as legislators from Harrisburg, have called the attempt to regulate guns with the Pittsburgh City Council ordinances illegal, as Pennsylvania state law currently disallows municipal legislation of firearms.

In a separate critique leveled against the Pittsburgh City Council, several community leaders aired concern with how the legislation will be enforced. Rev. DeNeice Welch, the president of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, told PublicSource that “any ordinance like this … always lands on the backs of young African Americans … always.”

David Harris, law professor at University of Pittsburgh, told PublicSource that “it may seem to some people as an overreaction to jump up and say these [ordinances] are dangerous to black communities,” but continued, “it has less to do with the specific laws in this case and more to do with the overall problem of disproportionate enforcement … this could happen with jaywalking or any number of issues.”

With these concerns raised to the Pittsburgh City Council, in addition to council members’ desires to include provisions in the ordinance relating to mental health, the ordinances did not pass before the Feb. 14 target, which also serves as the one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

Carnegie Mellon University placed a strict deadly weapons ban at “any property owned or controlled by the university” on June 23, 2000, so the proposed Pittsburgh ordinances would change nothing about the current university policy.

These firearm regulation ordinances have continued through the Pittsburgh City Council, from initial reading to public hearings to where they currently sit in “Standing Committee,” awaiting final modifications and a vote. As the city cannot enforce them with arrests, the ordinances offer only additional citations that can be issued.

As the ordinances are finalized in Standing Committee, Pittsburgh residents continue to air both critique and support for the modernization of gun regulation in Pittsburgh. With the ordinances past public hearings now, the legislation is now in the hands of the Pittsburgh City Council.