Harrisburg asks higher court to review judge’s ruling that struck down three of its gun ordinances


By Christine Vendel

guns copy.jpg
The fight over Harrisburg’s gun ordinances continues to play out in court as the city files a notice to appeal a ruling last month that temporarily struck down three of the city’s five gun ordinances. The two ordinances that remain standing are the ones most important to public safety, city officials have said. The ruling stemmed from one of two lawsuits faced by the city over the validity of its gun ordinances. (File)
HARRISBURG — Harrisburg officials have appealed a Dauphin County judge’s ruling that temporarily struck down three of the city’s gun ordinances.

City officials want Commonwealth Court to review last month’s ruling by Judge Andrew H. Dowling that concluded three of the city’s five gun ordinances were illegal under Pennsylvania law.

Dowling’s ruling stemmed from a request for a preliminary injunction by attorney Justin McShane, who is suing the city on behalf of gun rights group U.S. Law Shield. The injunction establishes how the ordinances should be viewed as the case plays out in court.

The city’s attorney, Josh Autry, filed the notice for appeal Thursday afternoon, the day before the 30-day appellate window closed. The city will file supporting legal briefs in the coming weeks.

City officials believe their gun ordinances comply with state law, said city solicitor Neil Grover.

“We disagree with the judge’s ruling, and we’re exercising our right to appeal,” Grover said.

But McShane called the city’s action frivolous.

“The only possible logic that the city has in appealing a preliminary injunction is the same type of logic that Capt. Edward J. Smith, captain of the luxury vessel Titanic, likely had,” McShane said. “The course is set. The ship cannot be turned. Disaster is the only outcome.”

The U.S. Law Shield lawsuit is one of two filed against the city under Act 192. The new state law gave gun rights groups legal standing to challenge municipal gun ordinances and allows plaintiffs to seek attorney fees and other expenses if they win.

McShane had repeatedly offered to drop any claim to attorney fees and expenses if the city would rescind all of its gun ordinances. McShane also warned city officials that his deal would be forever voided if the city appealed Dowling’s preliminary injunction.

City officials said they weren’t concerned about McShane removing his offer, because they believe in the city’s ordinances. They also said they could not promise to rescind the ordinances, because that action would have to come from council members after public hearings. Further, McShane’s reported offer would have opened up the city to legal fees from the other lawsuit they are fighting, city officials said.

Depending on how long the lawsuits take to wind through the court system, the city could be on the hook for up to $250,000 for each lawsuit. That’s the amount the city must cover before insurance kicks in.

Defending the lawsuits has cost the city more than $20,000 in legal fees so far.That amount doesn’t count plaintiff’s attorney fees, which McShane has previously reported were approaching $100,000.

The city will only have to pay McShane’s fees and expenses if Act 192 is found to be constitutional. Several cities are challenging the new law. The case is scheduled for arguments in April in Commonwealth Court.

That court should decide the constitutionality of Act 192 before deciding on Harrisburg’s appeal of Dowling’s ruling, Grover said.

The status of the lawsuit in Dowling’s court remains uncertain, but Grover said he believes the lower court would likely wait for the appeals case to be decided before proceeding.

The ordinances that were struck down will likely remain unenforceable during the appeal, Autry said.

In his ruling, Dowling granted a preliminary injunction, or temporarily struck down, the ordinances that prohibit the possession of guns in parks, during a state of emergency and by unaccompanied minors.

Dowling left two other ordinances standing. He ruled preliminarily that the city’s ordinances prohibiting the discharge of guns and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns are valid and do not violate Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act, which gives the state preemption in regulating firearms.

City officials have said the two ordinances left standing were the most important ones for the public safety.

Notice of appeal

US Law Shield v. City of Harrisburg

Judge orders Harrisburg to stop enforcing 3 gun ordinances

Post Gazette

HARRISBURG — A judge is ruling that Pennsylvania’s capital city cannot enforce three gun-control ordinances.

Dauphin County Judge Andrew Dowling ruled Wednesday in a lawsuit brought against Harrisburg under a new state law designed to give gun owners and gun rights groups a better chance at dismantling illegal municipal firearms ordinances.

The ruling is a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of city ordinances prohibiting gun possession in parks, during a declared state of emergency and by minors. He says the ordinances are illegal because they are stricter than state law.

However, Judge Dowling declined to block the enforcement of two other ordinances, prohibiting the discharge of guns and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. Judge Dowling says they are permissible under Pennsylvania law.


Judge tosses three Harrisburg gun ordinances


By: Michael Gorsegner

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Dauphin County judge struck down three Harrisburg City ordinances Wednesday that limit when and where people in Harrisburg could carry weapons. This decision came as other lawsuits over gun laws move through the state courts. At the most basic level, the ordinances were reversed because they were more strict than the state laws that govern guns. One of those changes will now make it possible for people to carry their firearms in Harrisburg parks.

Both sides say this battle is far from over. “I was disappointed about the injunction today,” Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said. A frustrated Harrisburg mayor is upset over a Dauphin County judge’s decision to reverse three city ordinances that limit when and who can carry guns in the city. “I know this is incomprehensible to some who don’t live here but we area surrounded by an epidemic of gun violence,” Mayor Papenfuse said.

Wednesday, Dauphin County Judge Andrew Dowling sided with a group called U.S. Law Shield that was suing Harrisburg over the implementation of five gun ordinances. Judge Dowling ruled three of the five superseded state law and were therefore illegal to enforce. “It imposes a duty on a gun owner just because they are a gun owner,” attorney and gun advocate Justin McShane said. The three changes now make it possible for people to carry guns in city parks, during a state of emergency and doesn’t discriminate against minors possessing firearms.

“We will keep on pushing it until they do the right thing which is give up, get rid of these illegal laws and just simply follow the laws,” McShane said. However, the judge upheld two other ordinances, limiting discharge of guns in city limits and making it mandatory for owners of lost or stolen guns to report them missing. McShane says this is not the end of this suit. “We will absolutely push forward as quickly as we can to get these laws off the books permanently and forever,” he said.

The court decision was a temporary injunction, which means the changes are in effect. Much of this fight is still not over. These ordinances were called into question by a change in Act 192 at the state level which changes who can sue municipalities. The change in Act 192 is currently being challenged in Commonwealth Court.


Harrisburg, PA Ordered to Stop Enforcing Local Gun Control Ordinances


Dauphin County Judge Andrew Dowling has ordered Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to stop enforcing three local gun control ordinances that violate Pennsylvania’s newly-strengthened Firearms Preemption Law. The preliminary injunction stops prohibitions on the possession of firearms in parks, during states of emergency, and by minors. AttorneyMike Giaramita of The McShane Firm says that all five local laws that are being challenged are against state law, and will come to an end by means of litigation.Originally aired on the Sportsman Channel

Harrisburg mayor considers statute in gun lawsuit a ‘split opinion’


HARRISBURG – Harrisburg city officials are weighing their options after a decider struck down 3 of their gun ordinances as bootleg underneath a state’s Uniform Firearms Act.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse pronounced they have not motionless possibly to interest the statute of Dauphin County Andrew H. Dowling, who released a rough claim Wednesday preventing a city from enforcing gun ordinances that dissuade a carrying of guns: in city parks, during state emergencies and by unparalleled minors.

But a statute left in place dual other gun ordinances, that Papenfuse pronounced were a many critical ones for open safety: a breach opposite discharging a gun in a city and a requirement that gun owners news mislaid or stolen guns.

“Both of those have been effective open reserve collection for police,” Papenfuse said. “So we are overjoyed those were kept in place.”

The statute is a proxy magnitude to residence a city’s ordinances while a lawsuit filed by a U.S. Law Shield gun rights organisation works a approach by a justice system. The decider will eventually make a final statute that could differ from a rough claim after conference full arguments from both sides.

“This is only a initial step in a prolonged process,” Papenfuse said.

He pronounced a stage will now change to a Commonwealth Court where a decider is deliberation a constitutionality of a new state law that allows gun rights groups like U.S. Law Shield, that is formed in Texas, to sue Harrisburg. Arguments are set to start in April.

The law, famous as Act 192, allows any gun owners to sue any municipality over a gun ordinances and find payment for authorised fees.

Justin McShane, a profession representing U.S. Law Shield, pronounced he has already racked adult scarcely $100,000 in authorised fees, a figure Papenfuse called “ridiculous.”

“The city’s authorised costs are a unequivocally tiny fragment of that,” he said.

If Act 192 is found unconstitutional, that is what Papenfuse believes will happen, he pronounced McShane will not get to collect any authorised fees.

“We unequivocally need to establish possibly Act 192 is constitutional,” he said. “The decider reputed in this box currently that a law was constitutional, though that has not motionless any of a underlying authorised issues. The city has most some-more justification it that can put on and additional arguments it can make.”

Although McShane claimed victory with Wednesday’s ruling, Papenfuse deliberate it a “split opinion,” with certain aspects for a city.

“I don’t consider possibly side can announce victory,” he said. “This was not an exhaustively researched authorised opinion. There are other aspects a decider did not order on.”

Judge blocks Harrisburg gun laws as three cities take aim at new Pa. law


By Bobby Allyn

A judge has temporarily loosened some of Harrisburg’s gun laws following a lawsuit brought by a gun rights organization.

A similar legal clash is occurring in Philadelphia’s courts, and advocates for more gun protections say there may be a hopeful sign in the judge’s ruling.

The Harrisburg judge found that three of five gun regulations the suit attacked should not be enforced while the lawsuit is pending, saying the protections go farther than state law. In legal language, the judge’s temporary lifting is called a preliminary injunction.

The preliminary injunction is the latest ruling to spring from a new Pennsylvania law known as Act 192. The NRA-backed measure allows gun owners to sue cities to relax gun restrictions without having to prove that any harm was caused.

Before the law, Pennsylvania courts would throw out suits that sought to roll back gun restrictions because plaintiffs lacked standing. But Act 192 gets rid of the requirement that a person needs to be aggrieved by a law in order to have a legitimate case.

The Dauphin County judge refused to strike down one Harrisburg law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.

That same requirement is among a series of gun regulations being challenged in Philadelphia.

Shira Goodman of CeaseFire PA, which is fighting to keep the regulations, said the regulation helps police keep track of guns that could be used in crimes.

“If a gun was stolen, and it’s not at a crime scene, they’re not going back to knock on your door and say, ‘Where’s your gun?’ because they know,” Goodman said. “But they also know that if they keep finding guns that were lost from you, maybe they’re going to find someone who is using their clean record to traffic guns.”

Goodman said the lost or stolen reporting rule is among the city’s most important gun protections since it helps root out “straw buyers,” or those who buy guns legally and hand them over to criminals.

A hearing in the case — in which Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are seeking to scrap Act 192 — is scheduled for April.

The cities are leveling a procedural attack. Since Act 192 was tucked into another bill establishing penalties for scrap metal theft, the cities are arguing that it runs afoul of a state law saying a bill must pertain to a single topic.

“It’s a law school exam, but in real life,” Goodman said.

An NRA spokesman did not immediately return a interview request.

Pennsylvania capital warned of steep legal fees for gun law defense


By David Dekok

(Reuters) – A gun rights lawyer pressed Harrisburg’s mayor on Thursday to drop his defense of local firearm ordinances, saying Pennsylvania’s capital could be on the hook for hefty legal fees in a lawsuit enabled by a new Republican-backed state law.

Gun rights advocates have sued the financially distressed city challenging five local ordinances, with three of them thrown out on Wednesday by a Dauphin County judge who decided they were not permitted under state law.

If Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, a Democrat, “rescinds all five ordinances, we will waive all attorney fees and costs,” said Justin McShane, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of a state affiliate of Texas-based US Law Shield, which sells insurance to gun owners, and two individual plaintiffs.

McShane said the city faces a minimum of $250,000 in legal fees from his side alone and the total could go much higher as the case progresses. “If that scares people, they have a right to be scared,” McShane said.

Harrisburg spokeswoman Joyce Davis said city solicitor Neil Grover is studying what to do next. The mayor has vowed to stand his ground, but there was no immediate decision on an appeal of the judge’s decision.

The law that enabled McShane’s lawsuit was adopted in October by the Republican-led state legislature and signed by then-Governor Tom Corbett.

It gave the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates standing to sue municipalities with gun ordinances that were stricter than state law. The law also allowed full recovery of legal fees if the lawsuit was successful.

Many Pennsylvania municipalities rushed to rescind gun ordinances after the law was passed. Harrisburg refused, and became the target of the first lawsuit filed under the new law.

The local ordinances struck down by Judge Andrew Dowling on Wednesday banned unsupervised juveniles from carrying guns, banned guns in city parks, and outlawed carrying guns during civic disturbances.

The judge allowed the city to keep ordinances banning the discharge of a firearm within city limits and requiring reporting of lost or stolen firearms, ruling that they did not conflict with state laws.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Will Dunham)

Attorney claims victory in gun lawsuit against Harrisburg; says his legal fees are nearing $100,000

By Christine Vendel
HARRISBURG – Justin McShane, the attorney representing a gun rights group suing Harrisburg over its gun ordinances, proclaimed victory Wednesday after a judge struck down three of the ordinances in question.

The preliminary injunction by Judge Andrew H. Dowling “clearly sets the tone and says the government must follow the law,” McShane said at an afternoon news conference.

Dowling’s ruling struck down ordinances prohibiting carrying of guns: in parks, during state emergencies and by unaccompanied minors. Dowling said those ordinances go beyond state law and violate the state’s preeminence in regulating firearms.

But Dowling’s ruling left standing an ordinance forbidding the discharge of guns in the city and another ordinance that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.

McShane reiterated his offer to city officials to forgo any legal fees that he could try to recoup from the city under a new state law if Harrisburg would rescind all five of its gun ordinances.

“Realize that the handwriting is on the wall, realize that you have lost and you will continue to lose,” he said. “So what you have in front of you Harrisburg, is you have a choice. You can continue to fund a dead loser of a lawsuit or you can build. You can build a community center for the amount of money that we’re going to be involved in all of this lawsuit.”

McShane’s lawsuit on behalf of U.S. Law Shield was allowed under the new state law, known as Act 192, which gives legal standing for any gun owner to sue any municipality without having to prove harm.

The act also allows successful plaintiffs to collect legal fees. McShane said his law firm’s legal fees in fighting Harrisburg come close to $100,000. His firm, for example, paid $6,000 to an expert witness who was not allowed to testify at the hearing for the preliminary injunction earlier this month.

Still, McShane said it’s not about the money to him.

“I don’t want there to be anything in it for me,” he said. “We fully volunteer all of our time, all of our costs included it that…what we get out of it, is our government actually following the law.”

McShane would not be allowed to collect any legal fees if Act 192 is found to be unconstitutional. The Commonwealth Court is weighing that case now.

If the Commonwealth Court strikes down Act 192, then McShane’s clients would also not have legal standing to challenge four of the ordinances, although the judge noted that the plaintiffs would still have standing to challenge the prohibition of guns in parks.

McShane, who lives in Lower Paxton, said the preliminary injunction did not validate the two gun ordinances that are being allowed to stand.

He said the lost and stolen ordinance, according his reading of the ruling, “is clearly on-the-ropes.”

McShane pledged to get the other two ordinances thrown out as he continues to fight the case. He said he issued a request Wednesday to depose Councilman Jeff Baltimore and plans to depose all council members, although none of them were in place when the ordinances in question were approved.

The judge’s ruling is temporary as the case plays out in court. The city has 30 days to decide whether to appeal. City officials could not be reached for comment

Judge blocks Harrisburg from enforcing 3 gun laws


HARRISBURG — A Dauphin County judge has granted a preliminary injunction to stop the City of Harrisburg from enforcing three of its local gun laws.

Judge Andrew Dowling ruled the ordinances violate Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act, which prohibits municipalities from regulating gun ownership and possession.

Dowling blocked Harrisburg from enforcing laws that ban the possession of guns in city parks, prohibit minors from carrying guns unless accompanied by an adult, and outlaw the sale, transfer and possession of firearms and ammunition when the mayor declares a state of emergency.

Dowling let stand two city ordinances: one that prohibits discharging a firearm within the city and another that states lost or stolen guns must be reported to police.

Attorney Justin McShane requested the preliminary injunction as part of a lawsuit against the city filed on behalf of U.S. Law Shield of Pennsylvania, a gun owners group, and Todd Hoover, a retired state police trooper.

Act 192 of 2014, a law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett last year, allows groups to sue Pennsylvania municipalities with gun ordinances that go beyond state law.

Judge orders Harrisburg to stop enforcing 3 gun ordinances


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A judge is ruling that Pennsylvania’s capital city cannot enforce three gun-control ordinances.

Dauphin County Judge Andrew Dowling ruled Wednesday in a lawsuit brought against Harrisburg under a new state law designed to give gun owners and gun rights groups a better chance at dismantling illegal municipal firearms ordinances.

The ruling is a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of city ordinances prohibiting gun possession in parks, during a declared state of emergency and by minors. He says the ordinances are illegal because they are stricter than state law.

However, Dowling declined to block the enforcement of two other ordinances, prohibiting the discharge of guns and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. Dowling says they are permissible under Pennsylvania law.