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Inside Pittsburgh's Battle Over Gun Control Laws

Pittsburgh could be the bellwether city in Pennsylvania, defying state law to pass gun control ordinances, but first it has to get past its own district attorney.
A gun-control rally in Pittsburgh's Market Square, Saturday, March 24, 2018.
A gun-control rally in Pittsburgh's Market Square, Saturday, March 24, 2018.Gene J. Puskar/AP

​​​​​​The first and last Pittsburgh mayor to sit in jail while in office was Joseph Barker, a Know-Nothing Party nativist extremist who really hated Catholics and who was arrested in 1849 for inciting a riot. During his trial he spouted off at the judge saying, “Let him touch me if he dares. I'll hang him to a lamppost if he lays a finger on me.” The judge laid a year’s worth of jail time on him, during which Barker’s faithful following elected him as Pittsburgh’s mayor in 1850 via a write-in campaign. Today, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is looking to become the next mayor to get placed behind bars, though for far nobler reasons.

On December 14, Peduto joined Pittsburgh city council members Corey O’Connor and Erika Strassburger in announcing three city ordinances designed to stem gun violence and prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred two months prior. That was when Robert Gregory Bowers shot and killed 11 people in the Tree of Life synagogue. The December 14 date marked the day when a gunman killed 26 children and adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. Pittsburgh’s elected leaders set a goal of passing the gun control bills by February 14, the date of the school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida last year.