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State court again strikes down Philly gun laws

  Law Center  -   POSTED: 2009/06/19 10:15

A state appeals court ruled Wednesday that the city cannot enforce an assault weapons ban and a law prohibiting guns bought by one person and given to another, measures passed by City Council in an effort to combat persistent gun violence.


The 6-1 ruling marked the latest setback for Philadelphia officials, who have fought for years for the right to pass their own gun legislation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has previously upheld the state's exclusive right to enact gun laws.

The National Rifle Association challenged a series of measures that were passed by City Council in April 2008 and signed by Mayor Michael Nutter. Both sides expect the case to end up before the state's highest court again.

"The bottom line is, we won," NRA attorney C. Scott Shields said of the ruling.

In Thursday's ruling, the court said the city could not ban assault weapons or pass the law prohibiting straw purchases, in which one person fills out forms and buys a gun for someone else — often convicted felons who can't legally own guns.

In a dissenting opinion, Commonwealth Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner asserted the city does have the right to pass its own gun laws, citing the hundreds of residents killed by gun violence every year.

The NRA has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down strict gun control laws in the Chicago area. The NRA wants the court to rule that last year's decision invalidating a handgun ban in the District of Columbia also applies to local and state laws. The justices likely won't decide before late September whether to hear the NRA's case.


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