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Did The Papal Visit Gun Ban Violate PA’s Preemption Law?

2nd Amend.

Did The Papal Visit Gun Ban Violate PA’s Preemption Law?

Can they legally just ban guns in a huge section of the city where I could otherwise legally carry on any other day?

In case you’ve been too distracted by all the headlines about Syria, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail problems and the return of Bloom County to notice, Pope Francis spent the last few days here in these United States. TTAG reader James R. lives near Philadelphia, where His Holiness celebrated a hugely-attended mass on Sunday. The security measures taken in preparation for the Pontiff’s visit piqued James’ curiosity . . .

I live in PA, and while I don’t plan on being anywhere near the city when the pope visits this weekend, I noticed that large sections of the city are being sectioned off with security checkpoints and no guns are allowed in….

How does this work legally? (or doesn’t it?) PA now has strong preemption laws. Can they legally just ban guns in a huge section of the city where I could otherwise legally carry on any other day?

James is partially right: 18 Pa. C.S. sec. 6120 of the Pennsylvania code does indeed bar Pennsylvania counties, municipalities, or townships from imposing their own regulations concerning the “lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth”.

The one big exception: unlicensed open carry of a firearm is barred in cities ‘of the first class’ (i.e., Philadelphia,). But even that exception comes from state law, not a municipal ordinance. (The various attempts by cities such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Harrisburg to pass laws regulating firearms or ammunition are thus likely in violation of sec. 6120 of the Pennsylvania Code.)

The question veers a little off the track, however, where it assumes that the directive barring the lawful carriage of firearms in areas visited by Pope Francis came from a local government in Pennsylvania.

The Department of Homeland Security declared the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, and concomitant mass to be a “National Special Security Event” (read more about NSSEs here). Accordingly, the U.S. Secret Service was put in charge of security arrangements, as per 18 U.S.C. sec. 3056. (You can read more about NSSEs here.)

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