Frankel: Bill undermines local gun safety laws, could fail in court

HARRISBURG, Oct. 21 – State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, said a bill the House passed Monday (H.B. 80) would undermine local gun-safety laws such as Pittsburgh's. Gov. Corbett will sign it into law.

"It's bad enough the Republican-controlled legislature refuses to act on common-sense gun-safety legislation – now it and Governor Corbett will block Pittsburgh and other communities from acting to protect our own residents from gun violence," Frankel said.

"Even worse, House Bill 80 provides unprecedented standing to member organizations, such as the National Rifle Association, to file suit against our communities and reclaim damages. This legislation has the potential to severely hinder, or even bankrupt, those communities that seek to protect their citizens."

Pittsburgh has an ordinance requiring residents to report lost or stolen firearms.

"However, if the courts apply the state constitution's single-subject rule consistently, this pre-election pander to the gun lobby could well be declared unconstitutional. It's laughable to claim this belongs in a bill that started out just addressing scrap-metal theft," Frankel said.

"Ironically, under four years of complete Republican control of state government, they have ducked tough votes by blocking all sorts of clearly related Democratic amendments as 'not germane' to bills. This gun legislation may soon join other examples of Republican overreach that Pennsylvania courts have struck down, such as the restrictive voter ID law and the overriding of local governments' ability to protect their residents by setting some limits on Marcellus Shale drilling."

Under Article III, Section 3 of the state constitution, "No bill shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except a general appropriation bill or a bill codifying or compiling the law or a part thereof."

In 2008, a state court ruled that section invalidated 2002 legislation that expanded the hate-crimes law to include protections for LGBT people, as well as people targeted because of their gender, ancestry or mental or physical disability. The 2002 hate-crimes language had become law as part of a bill to address agricultural vandalism.

Earlier this month, a House committee reported out a bill to restore the inclusive hate-crimes protections on a wide bipartisan vote, but Republican leaders have blocked that legislation from receiving votes in the full House or Senate.

"The hate-crimes bill would actually do something about crime, and it will be back in the 2015-16 session," Frankel said.