PHILADELPHIA — A judge has barred enforcement of an executive order signed by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney last week banning guns and deadly weapons from the city’s indoor and outdoor recreation spaces, including parks, basketball courts and pools.
Common Pleas Judge Joshua Roberts on Monday ordered Philadelphia “permanently enjoined” from enforcing the order after a legal challenge, citing Pennsylvania state law that prohibits any city or county from passing gun-control measures, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The Gun Owners of America, on behalf of several state residents, filed a lawsuit immediately after Kenny’s order, the latest attempt by Philadelphia officials to regulate guns inside city limits. Attorneys for the city had cited its role as a property owner managing its facilities, saying that distinguished the order from previous legislation passed by the city council and struck down in court.
Andrew Austin, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement that he was gratified by the court’s quick action. But he said it was “in large part because the law is so explicit: The city is not allowed to regulate possession of firearms in any manner.”
“It is unfortunate that the mayor and city are willing to waste their time and taxpayer money on these type of ‘feel-good’ measures,” Austin said. “This was nothing more than a press release, and would not have — in any way — addressed the crisis of crime in our city.”
Kenney spokesperson Kevin Lessard said officials were reviewing the decision and were disappointed by the outcome that “prevents city employees from making the reasonable request that anyone with a firearm or deadly weapon leave a recreation facility.”
“The mayor’s executive order was intended to prevent the senseless violence that is interfering with the safety of children, families and staff in what must be safe places,” he said.
Roberts said his ruling was based “purely on legal questions.” But he also quoted two opinions strongly suggesting a need to revisit a 1996 state Supreme Court decision that state lawmakers have the authority to preempt local gun-control laws. Roberts said he “shares, echoes, and amplifies” the sentiments of those opinions.
The ceremonial signing came a day after Kenney spoke at the funeral for Tiffany Fletcher, a 41-year-old mother of three shot and killed earlier in the month outside of the city recreation center where she worked. A 14-year-old, who was firing at another group of teens, has since been charged in Fletcher’s shooting death.
Hours after the signing, five shooters ambushed a group of teenagers outside a northwest Philadelphia high school after a football scrimmage, killing a 14-year-old and wounding four others.
The city had just passed 400 homicides for the year, only slightly behind the pace of last year’s toll which ended up being the highest in at least six decades.