Pittsburgh City Council came to the defense of gun-violence victims Nov. 18, but some members questioned whether the nine-member legislature has the necessary firepower to make a difference.
Councilor Bill Peduto pushed through a non-binding resolution in opposition to three bills in the U.S. Senate that would, according to gun-control advocates, eliminate the rights states, organizations and shooting victims have to sue gun makers. The bills would curtail lawsuits like one filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which alleges that gun-industry marketing leads to disproportionate loss of life in minority neighborhoods. "The legislation before the U.S. Senate radically rewrites the legal principles of this country," Peduto told council. No industry, he argued, should have special protection from lawsuits.
"It's a non-binding resolution, and what we do here has no effect on what the U.S. Senate will do," countered Councilor Len Bodack.
"I'm not sure we'll be able to get through to Sen. [Rick] Santorum on this issue," Peduto conceded. But Sen. Arlen Specter, he said, might listen. Specter is the more moderate of the state's two Republican senators, but has drifted to the right in response to a primary challenge from conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey of Lehigh County.
The resolution passed 7-2, with Bodack and Jim Motznik voting no. "This resolution will put the Senate delegation on notice that Pittsburgh -- the city, and its residents -- are against the legislation," says Nathaniel Glosser, executive director of Pennsylvanians Against Handgun Violence, which pushed for the resolution. "We hope to convince Sen. Specter to withdraw support for these bills."
It's unclear whether council's resolution will get Specter to throw up his hands and say, "Don't shoot!" His office didn't respond to questions by deadline. Glosser expects the bills will come up in the Senate early next year, so maybe then we'll see whether council's water pistol has the necessary juice.