Pittsburgh Restricts Assault-Style Weapons After Deadly Synagogue Attack

Two firearms groups immediately filed separate lawsuits challenging the measure.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) followed through Tuesday on a pledge to restrict the use of assault-style weapons in the city, signing off on legislation passed by city councilors in a 6-3 vote last week.

The bill outlaws the use of a long list of specific firearms in the city, including the Colt AR-15 rifle ― which a gunman used in an October shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 worshippers and injuring seven.

“We are going to take some action, we are going to do something positive and, yes, it is going to be everlasting,” Peduro said at the signing ceremony, with some family members of those killed standing behind him. “Change only happens when you challenge the status quo.”

“If we didn’t challenge laws, women wouldn’t be able to vote,” he added.

In addition to restricting the use of assault-style weapons, the bill bans armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds. Additionally, it grants officials the power to temporarily seize guns from people who they determine pose a threat to themselves or others.

Critically, the bill doesn’t ban assault-style weapons outright, focusing instead on restricting their use. So while it’s legal to own the gun, owners can’t fire it or have it loaded in public, NPR reports.

People hold signs during a gun control rally in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh in March 2018.
People hold signs during a gun control rally in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh in March 2018.

That distinction on usage is critical because Pennsylvania reserves the power to regulate gun ownership at the state level. In 1993, Pittsburgh attempted to enact such a ban, only to have it overturned by Pennsylvania courts.

Soon after Peduto signed off on the measure, two groups filed separate lawsuits challenging its legality.

One, backed by the National Rifle Association, specifically targets the ban on high-capacity magazines. A second suit, filed by the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League, challenges the constitutionality of the regulation itself.