Pittsburgh City Council votes to restrict assault weapons

The Pittsburgh City Council voted Tuesday to restrict assault weapons months after 11 people were shot and killed with an assault rifle and other guns at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

The three bills restrict the use of assault weapons, extended magazines and armor piercing ammunition in public places within the city of Pittsburgh, and allow courts to temporarily take guns away from individuals deemed to pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

“Today Pittsburgh took a stand to say enough is enough,” City Councilman Corey O’Connor told CNN. He said this “shows that the city of Pittsburgh is willing to fight to protect its residents.”

The legislation comes months after the deadliest assault on the Jewish community in U.S. history, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Eleven people were killed and six were injured when a man opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October. Police said the shooter used a Colt AR-15 rifle and three Glock .357 handguns during the attack.

The city council voted 6-3 in favor of the amendments.

O’Connor said he hopes the legislation will serve as a model for other municipalities, and there will be a “domino effect.” But the city is expecting a fight in front of the state Supreme Court, he said.

At issue is whether the state can keep a city from changing gun laws.

O’Connor said Pittsburgh hopes to argue the state cannot keep a municipality from protecting its own citizens, but the amendments added language prohibiting the “use” of firearms in addition to possession, in order to give the law more ground to stand on should the state argue that municipalities cannot make laws regarding weapon possession.

O’Connor said that in terms of the legislation “use” is intended to mean carrying or loading a weapon, not simply firing it. Language has also been added to the red flag law that would hold guardians accountable if a minor obtained possession of a guardian’s gun, he said.

City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger wrote in a statement she was “proud” to support the ordinances that “rein in the use of assault weapons and certain firearm accessories, protect Pittsburgh’s children from the dangers of firearms,” and “help address suicide.”

Strassburger said the bills will “increase public safety in our neighborhoods, public places, places of worship and other institutions.” She added she is “under no illusion about the limits of these ordinances,” and said, “This cannot be the end of our work.”

Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene M. Harris, who was one of the three council members to vote against the bills, called them “unconstitutional” and “meaningless” in a city council meeting on Tuesday. She said “all it’s going to bring us is lawsuits,” and said, “We do not have the right to change any laws on guns.”

The text of the legislation states assault weapons and large capacity magazines “present an unacceptable and needless public safety risk,” and “there is no legitimate need … that can justify the consequences of tolerating the proliferation of military-style weaponry in the community.”

It adds the prohibition of assault weapons and large capacity magazines “results in a higher number of fatalities and injuries during mass shootings and other serious crimes, including murders of police officers.”

It adds assault weapons and high capacity magazines can “fire more rounds more quickly than shooters using other guns more suitable for self-defense, and fire rounds with greater destructive capacity.”

“That tragic truth has been proven and re- proven in mass shootings around the country,” the amendment reads, “including on October 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.”