Updated 5:56 p.m.
Here’s your chance to tell City Council how you feel about guns in Pittsburgh.
First, the logistics: A public hearing will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday about the city’s hotly contested proposed gun regulations. The hearing will be held in the lobby of the City-County Building, rather than council chambers, WPXI reported.
Before you go, catch up on the legislation.
TL;DR: Pittsburgh officials want to ban “assault weapons,” prohibit bump stocks and large capacity magazines, and allow the courts to temporarily confiscate firearms from a person deemed an “extreme risk.” The legislation has spurred support from the Coalition Against Violence, opposition from the National Rifle Association, a gun rights rally, and a battle between the District Attorney and the Mayor.
With help from the official Rules of Council and expertise from Curt Conrad, chief of staff for Councilmember Corey O’Connor, a co-sponsor of the legislation, here are the rules and what you need to know to address Pittsburgh City Council.
Rules for public hearings
What is a public hearing?
Literally, it’s as it sounds: “Public hearings are called in order to receive input from the public,” per the rules of council. Public hearings focus on a specific topic, such as a bill being discussed, Conrad said.
Who’s in charge of a public hearing?
Council President Bruce Kraus sets the date and time and presides at public hearings.
What action can be taken at a public hearing?
Not much. It’s really about listening. “No action or vote shall be taken on an ordinance, resolution, petition, remonstrance or communications at the time a hearing is held on the same,” according to council rules.
“It’s an opportunity for elected officials to hear directly from constituents, and that is essentially all they do in that meeting,” Conrad explained.
I want to tell Council what I think. What do I do?
You must register to speak at a public hearing. Fill out the speaker signup form here or call the city clerk at 412-255-2138. Speaker registration for Thursday’s hearing will close at 3:30 p.m. that day.
How long can I talk?
You’ve got three minutes to make your point, so use your best rhetorical strategies and keep it concise.
The council president will call up speakers one at a time for their three-minute window. Remember: This is purely informational; council will not engage with you, and it’s not a time for a back-and-forth, Conrad said.
If you don’t register in advance, you’ll have to wait until all registered speakers are done, and you’ll get just one minute.
What can I talk about?
Stick to the topic of the public hearing. Council won’t cut you off if you’re off topic, but it’s not the most effective place to air other issues, Conrad advised. (More on that later.)
Who can speak?
Public comment is intended for city residents, per the city code, and you’ll be asked to state your name and address at the lectern. But, Conrad said, historically people who don’t live in the city have been able to speak during public comment.
“I think council members are going to want to hear from people in their districts,” he said.
How many times can I speak?
You get one chance to comment per meeting, so make it count.
“This isn’t the Phantoms’ Revenge. You cant get off and come back in line again,” Conrad said.
What rules do I have to follow when I speak?
“Decorum and respect are very big in these meetings,” Conrad said. “We understand that these meetings can be tense because you have people on both sides of the issue in the same space, but the president, council members and our public safety officials are going to ensure that decorum is maintained.”
“Regardless of which side you’re on, treat the speakers with respect,” he added.
Can I bring a gun?
Anyone carrying a gun is required to secure it in a designated locker located on the ground floor before entering the building, per the Trib.
I can’t make it, but I want to watch.
City Council provides video streaming for all Regular Meetings, Standing Committee Meetings, and any Public Hearing or Post Agenda that is Cablecast.
- During an event – Check out the Video Streaming/Live Video Streaming Page while the event takes place.
- After an event – Wait about 24 hours for editing and posting, then go to the Meeting Calendar/Calendar Page to select any archived meeting from the list.
However, because Thursday’s hearing will not held in council chambers it will not be live-streamed as the technology is not available outside of that room, Conrad said. It will be filmed and posted later, but it won’t be available to watch live.
What if I want to talk about something else?
Go to a regular council meeting or reach out to your representative directly.
Council’s regularly scheduled meetings are held at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays in council chambers at the City-County Building. You can contact your councilmember here and learn more about them here.
For regular council meetings, public comment is held at the beginning of each meeting, and you don’t need to register in advance — just sign up at the podium that morning. You’ll get three minutes, and you’re asked to speak to issues that are in front of council currently or may be in the future.