Guns and the Constitution: Does the right to enjoy life outweigh the right to bear arms?

Any time there’s a call for new laws to regulate firearms, Second Amendment worshipers point to the U.S. and state Constitutions and scream about the government trying to take guns from law-abiding folks. Now, gun control advocates are pointing to the Constitution, too. They say the Pennsylvania Constitution demands that steps be taken to reduce the slaughtering taking place. The constitutional rights “of enjoying and defending life and liberty” have been violated by state officials because of a state law that prevents local governments from enacting gun control measures. That’s according to a lawsuit by relatives of gun violence victims, the city of Philadelphia and CeaseFire Pennsylvania. The suit alleges state officials have enhanced the danger by using their authority to render them “more vulnerable to gun violence.” It says the state Constitution’s Article I rights guaranteeing life and liberty are broader than the right to bear arms, which is not absolute. Filed Wednesday in Commonwealth Court, the suit says the state, General Assembly, House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, have acted “with deliberate indifference and/or recklessness.” The state’s firearms preemption law, enacted in 1974 and tightened several times since, says municipalities cannot have firearms laws that are stricter than state laws. It has been an insurmountable barrier to attempts to reduce the carnage of gun violence, which kills an average of 1,544 people a year in Pennsylvania. In 2008, Allentown tried to address illegal gun sales by requiring lost or stolen […]

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