City Council may bring back gun laws

Allentown City Council may bring back gun laws

Allentown City Council is considering putting two gun laws back on the books in light of a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling.

In February, council repealed its two gun ordinances due to the threat of legal action.

Allentown had prohibited anyone from carrying a firearm on city property, including city buildings or parks. The city also required a gun owner to report a lost or stolen gun missing within 24 hours of discovering the weapon missing.

But the city never charged anyone under the law, however, as Lehigh County district attorney ordered city police not to enforce it.

The state Superior Court in June found unconstitutional a state law that allowed the National Rifle Association and other groups to sue cities that enacted local gun ordinances that are tougher than state law. Previously, a membership group needed to find someone harmed by a gun law, such as being fined, in order to file a lawsuit.

About 20 Pennsylvania municipalities, like Allentown, repealed their ordinances to avoid lawsuits but cities like Lancaster, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh challenged the state law's constitutionality.

The Lehigh Valley Tea Party group hired an attorney, which contacted the city urging them to repeal their ordinances, although the group did not explicitly threaten to sue.

In January, Tom Campione, vice chairman of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party and chairman of the party's Second Amendment committee, said that the group sent the letter to the city because local governments are not empowered to legislate gun ownership

City Council Chairman Ray O'Connell explained Wednesday night that in light of the ruling the city wants to revisit the issue.

"We took it off the books and now we want to bring it back," he said.

Council referred the ordinances to the public safety committee, which will discuss reinstating the laws on Aug.5.

Resident Steven Ramos, a candidate for city controller, warned council that he did not believe the ruling took away an individual's right to sue. He advised against jumping in the middle of a back and forth of what is considered legal.

The state law in question -- Act 192 -- specifically dealt with the rights of groups like the NRA to have automatic legal standing to sue.