Is City Council’s new ban on guns in city parks unconstitutional?

police at sacks playground in south philadelphia
Rikard Larma/Metro. Police canvass the area around a South Philadelphia playground where an 11-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy were shot last year.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated Councilman Brian O’Neill voted against the legislation when, in fact, Councilman O’Neill voted in favor of the bill. Councilmen Dennis O’Brien and David Oh cast the two “no” votes.

City Council on Thursday passed legislation extending a firearms ban to all city-owned land, including municipal parks and recreation centers.

“What we’re looking to do ultimately is to find a way to make parks safer,” sponsor Councilwoman Cindy Bass said Thursday, calling the bill “one of the many steps we could take to make folks safer here in Philadelphia.”

But the bill didn’t escape the vote without any “nays” – Councilmen Dennis O’Brien and David Oh both voted against it.

“The authority to create a statewide limitation on where guns can go and how they can be brought into certain locations is the authority of the state legislature,” Oh said.

Still, the bill was crafted with Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration and Nutter is expected to sign it into law.

“Since I’ve been on board as the chair of parks and recreation, I have been concerned about violence that we see in our recreation centers,” Bass said, ticking off several recent incidents.

“We need to make these places safer. I want to be able to send my child to my neighborhood recreation center and feel comfortable that my child is safe and that they’re in a good environment.”

She noted weapons are already banned from municipal government buildings like City Hall, where Council conducts its meetings.

“You cannot bring a firearm into this building and so if it’s good enough for members of City Council, why wouldn’t we want to do this?” she said.

Oh said he doesn’t think the law – which would penalize violators with a $500 fine – is possible to enforce without conducting unconstitutional searches and feels it violates the Second Amendment.

“I think it’s important that we do respect and uphold the Constitution,” he said. “Those sections that we like and those sections that we don’t really like.”

Looming legal battles?

Oh feels a legal challenge is imminent. “I don’t think this is something that would not be challenged in a court of law,” he said.

Bass said she also expects court action. “But I think that we need to proceed and see what happens and just continue on,” she said.

“This is too important. You can’t sort of sit on the sidelines and say, ‘Well, we know it’s not going to pass, we know that we’re going to have a problem out of Harrisburg.’

“We need to proceed. Time is of the essence – our young people and citizens in general, their lives are on the line.”

Heated history

Philadelphia has already waged legal battles regarding firearm legislation.

  • Pennsylvania passed a law in 1994 specifically barring municipalities from regulating guns.
  • Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008 passed a package of five city gun control ordinances, which spurred the NRA to sue the city and call for Nutter’s arrest.
  • A state appeals court eventually threw out the gun control legislation, though Nutter was not arrested. The NRA did not return calls for comment Thursday in response to the newest legislation.
  • The state Supreme Court in 1996 invalidated a city ordinance regulating assault weapons and three years later an attempt to hold gun manufacturers liable for the toll of firearm violence on Philadelphia.

News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.