Taking on Gun Safety Preemption in Pennsylvania

An initiative of the Richard Berkman & Toni Seidl Health Care Justice Project.

The plaintiffs in the action, the City of Philadelphia, residents who have lost family members to gun violence, and CeaseFirePA filed a lawsuit in state court that claims the Pennsylvania General Assembly handcuffs local governments so that they cannot enact or enforce even simple, well-researched policies that have been repeatedly shown to save lives, while it also refuses to enact statewide gun safety laws. “In short, the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s actions have stoked the gun violence epidemic” in Philadelphia and elsewhere across Pennsylvania, the lawsuit states.

In 2020, gun violence reached epidemic levels throughout the Commonwealth. In Philadelphia, shooting incidents are up 57 percent over 2019, and the number of shooting victims is up 47 percent. The number of shooting victims under 18 is up 71 percent. Gun violence continues to disproportionately impact low income and minority communities across the Commonwealth. In Philadelphia, firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for Black men and youth between age 15 and age 34, and 85 percent of 2018 shooting victims were Black.  Even before this year, gun violence was on the rise throughout the Commonwealth—the rate of gun deaths in Pennsylvania increased 20 percent from 2009 to 2018.

The lawsuit takes direct aim at the Firearm Preemption Laws in Pennsylvania, which prevent cities like Philadelphia or any other municipality from enacting their own common-sense local gun laws that have been demonstrated to save lives.

June 9, 2021
In oral argument, families of gun violence victims, the City of Philadelphia, and CeaseFirePA oppose an attempt to dismiss their case against Pennsylvania Firearm Preemption Laws

October 7, 2020
Amid rising gun violence, the City of Philadelphia and families who have lost loved ones in shootings announce major legal action against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over preemption of gun safety laws.