Judge strikes down three gun restrictions in Harrisburg

Written by Ben Allen and the Associated Press | Feb 25, 2015 12:06 PM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

File Photo: Todd Hoover of the group U.S. Law Shield

(Harrisburg) -- A Dauphin County judge has issued a preliminary ruling that three of Harrisburg's restrictions on guns are unlawful, in the first major court decision since a state law went into effect earlier this year.

Judge Andrew Dowling says the city's ordinances regulating gun possession in parks, transferring weapons during a declared emergency, and gun possession by minors are more strict than state law and should not be enforced.

The state chapter of Texas-based U-S Law Shield brought the suit under a new state law allowing the National Rifle Association and similar groups to challenge illegal gun ordinances.

However, the law itself being challenged in court by Lancaster, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Attorneys for the city of Harrisburg say the case should be paused until questions over the law are resolved.

Justin McShane, attorney for groups suing Harrisburg, says after today's ruling, the city is risking a lot if it keeps its city ordinances on the books...

"I would say that's an option, but that is a very bad option because it costs them a lot more money, and I think that at this point in time, they've tried to make their principled stand, but at this point, now you're just being foolish and foolhardy."

McShane says U.S. Law Shield will drop its lawsuit and he won't demand attorney fees if the city backs off.

"So it seems to me that the handwriting is on the wall for the city of Harrisburg, that it's time for them to come into conformance with the law and stop breaking the law."

Attorney Justin McShane represents groups suing the city, and says it should just make some changes.

The judge did preserve two city restrictions banning firing a gun in city limits and requiring reporting of lost or stolen weapons.

The city didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harrisburg gun law preliminary ruling by Ben Allen

Meantime, a Montgomery County township is the latest community to repeal gun ordinances in an effort to avoid being sued.

East Norriton supervisors have voted to repeal laws allowing hunting in the township and regulating firearms in parks and other recreation areas.

The townships hunting ordinance passed in the 1960s. Its parks and recreation regulations were passed in the 1980s.

The community of 13,500 people is about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

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