In Crawford v. Commonwealth, the City argued that PA’s Firearms Preemption laws prevent municipalities from taking action to address gun violence

PHILADELPHIA — Today, the City of Philadelphia with co-petitioners, CeaseFirePA Education Fund and individuals affected by gun violence in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, alongside co-counsel Hogan Lovells and Public Interest Law Center, made its oral argument before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the case of Crawford v. Commonwealth, which challenges the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Firearms Preemption laws.

During today’s hearing, the City presented its argument regarding the ongoing gun violence crisis in Philadelphia, where over 1,000 people have been shot so far in 2023. Petitioners have compelled the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reverse the dismissal of the case, and for the case to be remanded to the Commonwealth Court for discovery and trial.

The City and co-Petitioners filed this lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2020, seeking a permanent injunction preventing further enforcement of Firearms Preemption Laws, so that Philadelphia and other municipalities in Pennsylvania can implement sensible gun safety laws that are proven to save lives. In May of 2022, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the case, and the City of Philadelphia appealed the decision.

“The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act binds our hands as we fight the scourge of gun violence and senseless loss of life in Philadelphia. There is no justification for this restriction that could possibly outweigh the negative effects of gun violence – especially the lives cut tragically short and the enduring psychological trauma to residents,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “To be clear, we are arguing on both principle and the empirical evidence showing that the constitutional, common-sense approaches we’re currently prevented from taking would reduce gun violence in Philadelphia. With this lawsuit we are petitioning the court to let us save lives and protect the communities most impacted by our national crisis of gun violence.”

“With over 269 people killed by firearms this year alone, gun violence continues to traumatize Philadelphia communities on a near daily basis. Despite this, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania not only refuses to act, but, through the enforcement of Firearms Preemption, has repeatedly blocked City officials from implementing laws to address the crisis, including permit-to-purchase ordinances, one-gun-per-month limits, and extreme risk protection,” said Diana Cortes, City Solicitor. “The City is confident in the facts and case law presented in its legal argument and is hopeful that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will reverse the Commonwealth Court decision to dismiss this case.”

“We’re proud to stand in solidarity today with some of the many victims and survivors of gun violence in our city,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke, a longtime legislative advocate for stronger gun laws for Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. “Our city is flooded with illegal guns, and we need relief – now. We hope and pray that our judges and court system are listening to the voices of victims – and to the legal pleas from the City of Philadelphia.”

“I recently had the opportunity to learn from public health officials in the UK, which has the kind of sensible gun laws that we here in Philadelphia are barred from passing,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “While homicide is the second leading cause of years of potential life lost among all Philadelphians, it is not even listed among the top causes of death in London. In 2021, Philadelphia lost 562 residents to firearm homicide, while London, a city of nine million people, lost 12 residents to gun violence. Sensible gun laws save lives. Our children deserve better than the carnage that Pennsylvania’s preemption laws are causing.”

“Justice is blind, not deaf. The cries of mothers, parents, and children from decades of gun violence stoked by the General Assembly make it clear this public health crisis could be ended if communities are empowered to enact life-saving tools. Today was their day in court. And now the Justices must recognize that everyone should be able to live free and safe from gun violence by ending the fatal toll of preemption,” said Adam Garber, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA Education Fund.