Wednesday, June 4, 2008
A Philadelphia judge yesterday sided with the National Rifle Association and struck down city ordinances banning assault weapons and limiting handgun purchases to one a month.
In a blow to the city's attempt to write its own gun laws, Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan ruled that Philadelphia should be permanently prevented from enforcing the laws that City Council passed unanimously in April.
But Greenspan gave city officials a consolation prize by declining to strike down three other laws on procedural grounds, indicating that the NRA and other plaintiffs did not have legal standing to challenge those laws.
Lawyers on both sides of the emotional issue hailed the split decision in a positive light.
"It's a partial victory," said Douglas I. Oliver, Mayor Nutter's spokesman. He said that the judge's decision to let three laws stand "shows that this city's actions were legal and not actions of a renegade government."
C. Scott Shields, the NRA's lawyer, called Greenspan's ruling a "huge victory" for gun-rights advocates.
"The assault-weapons ban was just ridiculous," he said. "There's just no way this would be enforceable."
The adversaries agreed on one thing: that the decision would be appealed, likely all the way to the state Supreme Court.
The lawyers said they were awaiting Greenspan's opinion spelling out her decision.
During hearings, Greenspan indicated that she agreed with the NRA's position that superseding state laws prevent the city from regulating guns in any way.
Yet by allowing three laws to stand, Greenspan gave gun-control advocates some hope that municipalities facing high levels of violent crime could push for local control. [Mark Godsey]