oday, a Commonwealth Court three-judge panel ruled that Allegheny County District Attorney, Stephen Zappala, violated Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure by refusing to accept a private criminal complaint from four Pittsburgh residents related to the illegal gun control ordinances passed in April of 2019 by the Pittsburgh City Council and Mayor Bill Peduto.
The ordinances themselves were struck down both in the Court of Common Pleas and on appeal to the Commonwealth Court. However, plaintiffs in the private criminal complaint alleged that Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh City Council also abused their office with the passage of these illegal ordinances, specifically by committing an act of “official oppression” as defined by Title 18, Section 5301 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes. Public officials are in violation of this law when they deny or impede the exercise of any rights, and it is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor in the Commonwealth.
Frustratingly, when the plaintiffs attempted to file the private criminal complaint in April of 2019, the DA refused to physically accept and evaluate it as required by Rule 506 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. The plaintiffs then sued for a Writ of Mandamus to compel the District Attorney to do his job. Today’s Commonwealth Court decision overturns a lower court decision where the mandamus case was dismissed.
“I am so pleased that the Commonwealth Court has once again stood up to protect the rights of common people in their pursuit of justice and protection of their individual liberties,” said Lane Turturice, attorney for the plaintiffs.
“Today, gun owners in Pittsburgh have been vindicated,” said Dr. Val Finnell, Pennsylvania Director for Gun Owners of America. “DA Zappala was clearly in the wrong by refusing to accept and review the private criminal complaint. Now, I would hope that DA Zappala finally does his job and holds former Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh City Council accountable by filing criminal charges against these individuals for committing acts of official oppression by violating the Constitutional rights of their citizens and ignoring the state firearms preemption law,” continued Finnell.
GOA is strongly in favor of strengthening the state firearms preemption law by adding civil and/or criminal penalties for local government officials who violate it. This would include paying the legal fees and damages for the law-abiding citizens who must sue these rogue local governments to regain their Constitutional rights.