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
National

Humans should thank ancient Scottish fish fossils for…

By Kate KellandLONDON (Reuters) - Scientists studying fossils have discovered that the intimate act of sexual intercourse used by humans was pioneered by ancient armored…

National

Comet makes rare close pass by Mars as…

By Irene KlotzNEW YORK (Reuters) - A comet from the outer reaches of the solar system on Sunday made a rare, close pass by Mars…

Local

NYPD: Man found hanging in Brooklyn subway station

A man was found hanging inside a Brooklyn subway station on Saturday morning, police said. The man, who still had not been identified on Sunday,…

Local

Only church destroyed in 9/11 set to rebuild

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only house of worship destroyed during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, held a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday to start the…

Television

9 things we learned about 'Hannibal' Season 3…

There’s plenty of fall television to be excited about, but the crowd inside the Paley Center for Media on Saturday night only wanted one thing:…

Going Out

Watch home cooks try to impress Tom Colicchio…

Is what you’re making for dinner tonight good enough to serve “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio? That’s the standard that some of the city’s best…

Television

‘Homeland’ recap: Season 4, Episode 4 ‘Iron in…

Carrie Mathison, what are you doing?! Don’t seduce virgins! More on that later: Lots of crazy stuff went down on the "Iron in the Fire" ep of "Homeland"!

Movies

Box office: Brad Pitt kills Nazis, also Nicholas…

This weekend, Brad Pitt's second WWII movie, "Fury," rolled into the lead, while the latest Nicholas Sparks movie, "The Best of Me," got little love.

College

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State…

College football AP Top 25 rankings: Mississippi State holds off FSU

NHL

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in…

NHL Power Rankings: Sharks, Canadiens, Blackhawks out in front

NFL

DeMarco Murray carries Cowboys to win over Giants

The Giants knew they would need to stop DeMarco Murray if they were going to leave Dallas with a win. It didn't matter.

NFL

Jets trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin: Report

According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the Jets have sent a conditional draft pick to the Seahawks for wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…

Wellbeing

Health News: 5K for lung cancer, free yoga,…

Get some fresh air to benefit lung cancer research On Friday, the first-ever Brooklyn Free to Breathe Run/Walk will take place Oct. 26 at Cadman Plaza…

Education

Can these two college students come up with…

Two Atlanta college students say they have an idea for a simple test that would quickly diagnosis the Ebola virus - and it all started…

Education

Chances are, the average college student isn't taking…

As a bachelor’s degree becomes more expensive than ever, one new report is criticizing colleges for the content of those pricey educations. The American Council…