Keeping Guns and Ammo Stored and Locked Separately is the Law in Philadelphia—For Now!

Free gun locks being distributed. Photo courtesy of Brad Larrison for NewsWorks.

On June 16, 2016, by a 16-1 vote, the City Council approved a measure that requires every firearm in Philadelphia stored in homes where a minor child is present to be unloaded and locked inside a container with the ammunition further secured in a separate container.

The ordinance amended Chapter 10-834 of The Philadelphia Code entitled “Responsibility to Avoid Possession and Discharge of Firearms by Children” by requiring Safe Storage of Firearms and Ammunition.”

In particular, SECTION 1. Chapter 10-834 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Safety” is amended to read as follows:

§10-834. Responsibility to Avoid Possession and Discharge of Firearms by Children.

(c) (1) All firearms licensed to be sold, owned or carried in the City of Philadelphia shall be equipped with a trigger-locking device.
(2) All firearms kept in a home with one or more individuals younger than 18 years of age, shall be kept unloaded and stored in a locked container, except when an authorized user is carrying it on his or her person or has the firearm under his or her immediate control;
(3) All ammunition kept in a home with one or more individuals younger than 18 years of age, shall be stored in a locked container in a separate place from the firearm, except when an authorized user is carrying it on his or her person or has the firearm under his or her immediate control.

Nonetheless, the new law may still face a major hurdle despite a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision.

On June 21, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a state preemption law that provided that only the legislature could enact laws that regulated firearms on a technicality.

However, not to be deterred, on June 24, 2016, Senator Rich Alloway (R-33) re-introduced legislation, SB 1330, to replace the intent of the original measure, one that was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, to prevent localities from imposing ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature. The measure is still before the Senate.

Further, other cities that have passed mandatory gun lock laws, such as San Francisco, have often found themselves in court with gun rights groups and have had to defend their laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a 2007 San Francisco ordinance that compelled gun owners to secure guns either locked inside a container or disabled with a trigger lock, allowing the mandatory gun lock law to stand.

There is no indication how a new Supreme Court may decide the issue if it comes before them in the future.

The city recommends trigger locks as part of its safe storage initiative program. Only state lawmakers, however, could mandate the use of trigger locks. Philadelphia law enforcement officials began handing out free gun locks August 1st to people who own guns legally as part of the new city law.

As it now stands, under the new Philadelphia ordinance, those homeowners faced with a self-defense situation would have to take the additional step of unlocking a separate box to retrieve ammunition, and then loading the gun, all under stress!

What do you think of this new law?