Pittsburgh Council Waters Down Proposed Assault Rifle Ban To Avoid State Override

City plans to ban 'use' of weapons in public places.

Ar-15 Ammuntion
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City plans to ban 'use' of weapons in public places.

Pittsburgh’s City Council amended their original plan to outright ban assault rifles and passed a tentative measure today that would ban the “use” of assault weapons in public places.

The gunman that killed 11 and wounded seven at the Tree of Life Synagogue last October used an AR-15, an assault-style weapon. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

The measures would also allow the courts to remove firearms from those who pose an “extreme risk” to themselves or others.

The watered-down bill, reported the Associated Press, was passed in an effort to survive a likely challenge because Pennsylvania state law prohibits municipalities from regulating the ownership or possession of guns and ammunition.

A full ban would require state lawmakers or the state Supreme Court to allow municipalities the right to regulate guns. This is unlikely in the largely rural state which is known to be fiercely protective of gun rights, according to the Associated Press.

“This is something that the state should be voting on, not council,” Council Member Darlene Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after voting against the measure. “If we do a resolution and ask the state to do this, that’s different.”

The council listed 37 types of semi-automatic weapons that the bill would prohibit from loading or attempting to discharge in public places. Use of armor and metal-penetrating ammunition, large capacity magazine, and accessories designed to accelerate the rate of fire would also be illegal.

Walter Gibson, 43, marched with hundreds of gun-rights advocates last January to the steps of City Hall, openly and legally carrying firearms to demonstrate against any gun-control legislation.

“They were planning to do this regardless of any public input or even the legality of their actions,” he told the Post-Gazette after the council meeting.

According to the Associated Press, Pennsylvania’s two largest cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have tried to enact gun legislation in the past.

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In 1993 both cities passed assault-weapons bans, both of which were overturned by the state Legislature and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 2008, Philadelphia tried another ban on assault weapons and enacted measures to limit gun purchases but was once again overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Pittsburgh does have a law that requires people to report lost or stolen firearms, but it’s never been enforced, according to the AP.

The New York Times reported that along with the AR-15, the mass shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue used three Glock .357 handguns, and owned 10 guns in total. The Philadelphia office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported that all of his guns were “acquired and possessed legally.”

The year 2017 was the first time in more than a decade Pittsburgh recorded fewer than 150 shootings, according to the Post-Gazette.