Say the word “gun” and you can instantly divide people.
Some want to enact laws and restrictions in hopes of curtailing violent crimes. Some are just as passionate about protecting constitutional rights and protections surrounding gun ownership.
It can be hard to find a middle ground anywhere. Pennsylvania is practically ground zero for the debate over the Second Amendment — which was born at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and state Rep. Dan Frankel, D- Squirrel Hill, have been prominent voices on the reform side of things since the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Pittsburgh City Council passed its own gun reform ordinances in 2019, which were promptly challenged by opponents.
The reason is a Pennsylvania law that makes it illegal for any local government to write gun laws superseding the state’s statutes. Frankel has proposed legislation in Harrisburg to change that. On Thursday, the two met with other community leaders in support of that idea.
Whether anyone supports it or not is immaterial. In most cases, it is not the state law that would end up in the way.
Making local ordinances changing gun laws from one municipality to the next would make Pennsylvania a mosaic of all-but-unenforceable regulations.
When the two dogs really staking these claims are the state’s biggest cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, it might not seem that big a problem. Both have their own police departments. Pittsburgh is the Allegheny County seat, and Philadelphia is its own county, both with their own courthouses and jails. Why not their own laws, too?
The issue is that discounts the fractured glass that makes up the rest of the state. There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania. That would be enough of a challenge. But there are more than 2,500 municipalities. Less than half have their own police departments.
And that is where things get sticky. Where there is no local department, law enforcement falls to Pennsylvania state police — who do not enforce local ordinances.
Making gun laws subject to the changeable vagaries of local officials makes them utterly toothless — and therefore a waste of time for most municipalities that would lead only to confusion.
That doesn’t even take into consideration areas where those communities collide. In rural areas, this might not matter. But Pittsburgh butts up against its neighbors in places where one side of a street would have one rule and the opposite side a different one.
Whether someone wants more gun control or not, it is a decision that is best made on a state level.
— The Tribune-Review, Greensburg/TNS