Pittsburgh approves gun-control legislation

Pittsburgh City Council approves gun-control legislation proposed in wake of massacre at Tree of Life synagogue.

Ben Ariel ,

Scene of Pittsburgh attack
Scene of Pittsburgh attack
Alexi Rosenfeld

The Pittsburgh City Council has given final approval to gun-control legislation proposed in the wake of the deadly attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building, JTA reported on Wednesday.

The council voted 6-3 to send a package of gun-control and anti-violence bills to the desk of Mayor Bill Peduto, who said he would sign them, according to the report.

The bills ban possession and use of certain semiautomatic weapons, including assault rifles, ban ammunition and accessories, such as large capacity magazines, and allow courts to temporarily remove guns from a person deemed to be a public threat.

A companion bill passed by the council directs additional funding to city anti-violence programs.

City residents who currently own guns and accessories outlined in the bills would be grandfathered. Violators of the laws could be fined $1,000, or face up to 90 days in prison, for each offense.

11 worshippers were murdered in the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue last October, the deadliest attack on Jews in the United States.

The gunman, Robert Bowers, used an AR-15 assault-style rifle in the attack on a Shabbat morning and allegedly yelled “I want to kill all Jews” during the attack.

He was indicted on 44 counts at the end of October and later pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in a federal courtroom.

In January, a federal grand jury added 19 charges to the 44 counts previously levied against Bowers. 13 of the new counts are hate crime violations and the others accuse him of obstructing religious beliefs and discharging a firearm during crimes of violence.

Bowers pleaded not guilty to the new hate crimes charges as well.

Critics of the legislation and gun-rights advocates have threatened lawsuits. Some argue that state law prohibits municipalities from regulating guns, noted JTA.

Council members Erika Strassburger and Corey O’Connor, whose districts encompass portions of Squirrel Hill, where the Tree of Life building is located, and Mayor Peduto’s office introduced the three bills in December, just seven weeks after the synagogue shooting, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.