Judge tosses Philly ban on assault weapons, purchase limits

June 4, 2008 9:15:26 AM PDT
A Philadelphia judge has blocked the city's attempt to ban assault weapons and limit handgun purchases to one a month, while upholding three lesser gun laws challenged by the National Rifle Association.

Both sides expect the fight over local gun-control efforts to reach the state Supreme Court.

Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan, in a brief ruling Tuesday, said the city could start enforcing the lesser measures.

They require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns within 48 hours; let police confiscate guns from people considered a danger; and prohibit anyone subject to a protection-from-abuse order from possessing a gun.

"Three out of five I think makes a big win," Mayor Michael Nutter said Tuesday, while vowing to push for the others. "We have an obligation to try and protect the safety of people in this city."

The city's partial victory may prove temporary, though, if higher courts side with the NRA and find that only the state can regulate guns in Pennsylvania. The state's power comes from a 1974 court ruling.

District Attorney Lynne Abraham has said she will follow state law and not enforce the city gun measures.

Greenspan had suggested in arguments last month that she, too, would follow that line. But she also thought the NRA might lack standing to challenge the three laws upheld Tuesday because they were not in effect and no clients had yet been harmed by them.

A lawyer for the National Rifle Association hailed Greenspan's ruling.

"The assault-weapons ban was just ridiculous," lawyer C. Scott Shields said. "There's just no way this would be enforceable."