Philadelphia City Council passed a new gun regulation on Thursday that will no doubt face a legal challenge at the state level if Mayor Jim Kenney signs it.
The legislation would establish a court process to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose an imminent threat to themselves or the public — commonly known as a “red flag” law.
However, the state’s “preemption” law prohibits local governments from regulating firearms, requiring the General Assembly to sign off on all gun laws.
City Councilman Curtis Jones, who introduced the bill last year, said he believed his legislation could overcome the state’s preemption law.
“We’ve been given encouraging news from the Law Department that it does have legs to stand on,” said the Democrat from the 4th District. “We may get sued, but until it goes through the courts, it is the law of the city of Philadelphia.”
Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the Kenney administration, said in an email that the legislation will be reviewed by the city’s Law Department, but stopped short of saying whether the mayor will sign the bill.
The Philadelphia Police Department supports Jones’ legislation. At a council hearing for the bill in October, Police Inspector Fran Healy, a special adviser to acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter, described the bill as common-sense gun legislation that could help prevent mass shootings and suicides.
The legislation builds on a city law already on the books by laying out a process for police and the courts to temporarily remove firearms from some individuals.
Under the bill, an individual can petition the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for a gun violence protection order to take firearms from those who pose a threat to themselves or the public.
The petition must be accompanied by an affidavit backing up the petitioner’s beliefs.
Once a petition is filed, a Court of Common Pleas judge would hold a hearing within five days to determine whether to implement the order and for how long. Orders are capped at one year, but can be renewed. The legislation also allows for an emergency order to expedite the process in certain circumstances.
If an order is put in place, a person must relinquish their firearm to the police department within 24 hours of receiving notice of an order, unless directed otherwise by the court.
The bill allows police to initiate a criminal investigation if an order is violated, and police are required to notify the Pennsylvania police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation about each order.
Violating an order could result in fines up to $2,000 and 90 days in jail.
Philadelphia’s past attempts to buck the state with its own gun regulations have misfired.
As recently as 2013, the City Council passed a bill to prohibit guns and deadly weapons from city-owned facilities, which the state’s preemption law rendered unenforceable. In 1993, city legislators banned assault-style weapons, only to have the courts strike down the ban.
Jones welcomed opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to his legislation. If the state preemption law does quash his bill, he said, he hopes the city legislation could have some effect before that time.
“If we save one or 100 people in the meantime, so be it,” he said.
A call to the NRA seeking comment was not immediately returned.