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Gun Control Battle Brews As City May Opt To Legislate Despite State Preemption Rules

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - After the massacre of 11 worshipers at Tree of Life synagogue, local elected officials want to prevent this from ever happening again.

Mayor Peduto alluded to stronger gun control measures at the Rally for Peace last Friday.

"Strength is not about how many guns you have," the mayor said. "Strength is made by the compassion of your heart. And let us gather today to make sure as we move forward, we move forward as one America, working on common sense reform that will end this type of violence."

It's still unclear what city officials are planning, says Councilman Corey O'Connor, who's working with the mayor.

"The next couple of weeks we'll be getting together, writing up some legislation, probably into December, passing something," O'Connor told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday. "Just the mayor in brief talks is very interested in doing something, working with council, and I think that's a good thing to have."

CeaseFire PA says the state is behind in gun safety.

"There's a lot of things that other states do that we don't do," said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA. "For example, we don't have any license or permit to purchase; we don't have any waiting periods; we don't have any training requirements; we don't require background checks on the private sale of long guns; we don't have a state law on the reporting of lost and stolen firearms; it's very easy to get a concealed carry license in this state."

But the city can't act on their own, says gun rights advocate Kim Stolfer with Firearms Owners Against Crime.

"They cannot pass their own laws," Stolfer said.

State law preempts communities from passing gun control measures.

"It's a complete prohibition," Stolfer said. "If it affects the possession, transfer, carrying or anything else, including the accessories like magazines or ammunition of a firearm, they are precluded from that."

So what, says O'Connor, declaring it's time for the mayor and council to ignore this law.

"I think what we're going to do is make a statement and fight some of that stuff in court and say, why can't we?" he said. "We're protecting our residents. What are you doing for us? Nothing."

Any such action by city council, including an attempt to ban the semi-automatic AR-15 used in the synagogue shooting, will land them in court, say Second Amendment advocates like Stolfer.

Stolfer also says such action violates a Consent Decree signed by the city in 1995 and could lead to both criminal and civil costs to the city.

But council members like O'Connor say the city cannot stand by while the legislature and Congress do absolutely nothing in response to the Tree of Life murders.

Stay tuned. This fight is just beginning.

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