Pennsylvania attorney general won't defend state's pro-NRA gun law

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 05, 2014 3:56 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said on Friday her office would not defend a new state law enabling the National Rifle Association to take court action against municipalities with restrictive gun regulations.

The law giving court standing to the NRA was challenged in a lawsuit filed last month by the cities of Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Pittsburgh, and five Democratic members of the Legislature. They hope to stop it from taking effect in January.

“The attorney general determined it would be more efficient and in the best interest of the commonwealth for the Office of General Counsel to handle this matter,” her press secretary, Renee Martin, said in a prepared statement.

Kane’s stance recalls one she took in July 2013, when she refused to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage, forcing Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to hire outside counsel.

Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Corbett, confirmed that the Office of General Counsel, which serves as the state's in-house law firm, will defend the state against the lawsuit.

Kane, a Democrat, stopped short of saying whether she believes the new law is unconstitutional.

But Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican who was the prime sponsor of the gun law, accused the attorney general of acting “more like a politician than a prosecutor.” He vowed to push for her impeachment next year.

John Hohenwater, an NRA lobbyist in Harrisburg, said the association's litigation team is examining Kane’s stance but had no other comment.

In practical terms, the incoming Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, will decide what to do about defending the lawsuit.

His spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan, said Wolf would “review all existing litigation.” But the governor-elect said during the fall campaign that he opposed the new law.

(Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Dan Grebler)