Top Stories

DA: Proposed Pittsburgh gun legislation would be found unconstitutional

PITTSBURGH — Proposed gun legislation in the city of Pittsburgh cannot be legally passed, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said in a letter to city council.

The proposed changes could land councilmembers in court since, according to Zappala, what they're proposing is against the law.

"I was hoping this wouldn't be a battle, it's more of a courtesy as I've said before, but they just don't have the authority to do this at this level," Zappala said.

The proposed assault weapons ban would make it "unlawful to manufacture, sell, purchase, transport, carry, store or otherwise hold in one’s possession an assault weapon within the City, such as the Colt semi-automatic rifle used in the Tree of Life shooting," a December letter said.

If you want to receive BREAKING ALERTS, please download our WPXI News App. You can also follow WPXI on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, an accessories, ammunition and modification ban would bar items such as bump stocks, armor-penetrating bullets, sawed-off rifles and large capacity magazines.

"I understand the desire of local governments to be proactive in reducing gun violence and the opportunities to cause the type of pain, suffering, and dead, which recently occurred in the City of Pittsburgh," Zappala said in his Jan. 9 letter. "I believe, however, that the legislative effort needs to come from the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and that the legislation currently before Council, if passed, will be found unconstitutional."

The proposal has been mired in controversy. Just last week, hundreds of armed protesters descended upon the city-county building in opposition.

Zappala said if council's ban passes, then he fully expects residents to file private criminal complaints alleging violations of the law.

In the letter, Zappala said council's proposed legislation to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and certain ammunition and gun accessories is unconstitutional. He said only the state has the authority to pass gun laws.

"It's been pre-empted at the state level," Zappala said. "The state has to act on it. There is no local authority."


Councilman Corey O’Connor said the council will continue to push for legislation to limit certain types of weapons, ammunition and firearm accessories within city limits.

"Everybody has their right, he has a right to his own opinion," O'Connor said. "My stance is we are going to continue to move forward and I don't see why we wouldn't. We, again, believe we are the right side of history doing what's right for our residents."

Channel 11 asked Zappala if council has legislative immunity and he said he didn't think so, but plans to look into it.

Channel 11 also contacted Mayor Bill Peduto's office for a response and a spokesperson said: "The city is not sharing its legal strategy on these bills."