The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Monday refused to hear a case about Philadelphia’s lost and stolen gun law, allowing the ordinance to remain in effect and delighting supporters of similar measures across the state.

The development barely vexed National Rifle Association advocates who are fighting a lost and stolen gun ordinance in Pittsburgh, though. They quickly pointed out that the decision reflected on the case’s legal standing, not the validity of the law.

The state Supreme Court order pertained to a lower court case that had effectively upheld three Philadelphia gun ordinances — including one that required gun owners to report lost and stolen handguns to the police — and struck down two others.

The city of Philadelphia and the National Rifle Association filed petitions to appeal that decision. The state Supreme Court denied both petitions.

“Obviously we were glad to see the decision, however short it was,” said Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a state group formed to combat gun violence.

The order disappointed the National Rifle Association, but the organization will continue to engage the issue, said spokeswoman Alexa Fritts.

Currently, more than 40 municipalities across the state have some form of lost or stolen gun law.

Pittsburgh enacted its ordinance in 2008, requiring residents to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours of discovering they are missing — or pay a $500 to $1,000 fine.

The law is aimed at so-called “straw purchasers,” who buy guns legally and then sell or give them to criminals. Police often trace a gun used in a crime to the legal owner only to be told that the gun was lost or stolen.

No city residents have been cited under the ordinance, but police strongly support the measure, arguing that it helps them target gun traffickers.

“The upholding of this ordinance does not affect the legal gun owners that secure their weapons properly,” said Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan Harper, through a spokeswoman.

Still, detractors argue that such laws are ineffective, penalizing gun owners and rarely fingering traffickers.

The National Rifle Association and four local plaintiffs sued Pittsburgh in 2009, arguing that the ordinance violated state law, which bars municipalities from regulating the “ownership, possession or transportation of firearms.”

Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. tossed out the suit, saying the plaintiffs did not have the standing to challenge the ordinance, since none of them had been charged under it.

Source: Vivian Nereim for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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