NRA has Pennsylvania's gun laws in its sights, but mayors have vowed to resist challenge

The organisation has already announced lawsuits against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster in a bid to force their city-wide ordinances off the books

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Towns and cities across Pennsylvania have found themselves in the cross-hairs of the National Rifle Association which is spearheading a campaign to force them to scrap municipal gun control ordinances put in place to reduce firearms violence.

The NRA, the powerful gun rights organisation, contends that a state-wide law that dates back 40 years forbids individual municipalities from setting their own rules about firearms possession. It has already announced lawsuits against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster in a bid to force their city-wide gun laws off the books.

The action has been spurred by a new Bill recently signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, which affirms clearly for the first the time the legal right of groups like the NRA to challenge the municipal regulations in the courts. The resulting threats of legal action not just by the NRA but by numerous other smaller guns-rights organisations have already prompted many towns across the state to repeal gun control ordinances rather than face the cost of legal battles. But Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster are vowing to resist.

At risk are laws that, for example, oblige citizens to report to police if their legally owned guns are lost or stolen or allow the authorities to remove guns from individuals deemed to be of particular risk to their own lives or to others in a household.

“This should be a wake-up call for citizens across Pennsylvania,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. “We’re not taking away anyone’s right to own a gun – or 10 or 20 guns. What we’re saying is when a gun is lost or stolen, you’ve got to report it. Too many people are being killed in the streets of Pittsburgh and other cities with stolen guns.”

Rick Gray, Mayor of the much smaller city of Lancaster, branded the NRA “pathetic” and expressed confidence that his ordinances would survive the challenge. “The NRA is a New York-organised corporation that is based in Virginia and they are suing us in Lancaster because we are asking people to report stolen firearms,” he said. “I have a difficult time getting my arms around that.”

Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said: “We expect every municipality to repeal ordinances that are pre-empted. If other folks don’t get on board with what the law requires, they can expect to hear from us in due course.”