The National Rifle Association skirmished with the city of Pittsburgh and a gun-control group in Commonwealth Court on Tuesday over an ordinance requiring city residents to report lost or stolen handguns to police.
At issue was whether the NRA and four other plaintiffs - all city residents and gun owners - have standing to challenge the legality of the ordinance.
The three-judge panel heard arguments from the NRA and from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represented the city.
NRA attorney Meghan Jones-Rolla said she expected the panel to issue a ruling in a few months, but noted that the decision could be appealed to the full Commonwealth Court.
The judges questioned the parties about the harm, or lack thereof, the ordinance poses to the plaintiffs and gun owners generally.
"Doesn't it have a chilling effect on current gun owners?" Judge P. Kevin Brobson asked.
The case is a local reflection of the national divide over gun control and how best to avert gun violence.
City Council passed the ordinance in December 2008, and it took effect without Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's signature. It requires owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours of noticing they're missing.
The NRA and the four residents sued the city a year ago in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, claiming the ordinance exceeded the city's authority. Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. threw out the suit in July, saying the residents hadn't been harmed by the ordinance - none had been prosecuted for violating the reporting requirement, for example - and lacked standing to challenge it.
Ms. Jones-Rolla said the ordinance has infringed on the residents' ownership rights in various ways, such as by implying they must inventory their weapons so they know when one is missing.
Brady Center senior attorney Daniel Vice said the ordinance has had no impact - and may never have one - on the residents. If "hypothetical" claims of harm are allowed, he said, courts would be overburdened with cases.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548.