An Important Case for PennLAGOs and Schools

One of the problems with print media, is that the moment you hit print, it becomes out of date. Constantly evolving law coming from new statutes, and new cases interpreting statutes can change our current understanding of the law, which is difficult to remedy in a print book or article.

 

 

In the 2016 Edition of “Pennsylvania Gun Law- Armed and Educated” by Justin McShane and Michael Giaramita Jr., we speak on laws concerning the right to keep and bear arms in schools (K-12) and school property.

 

In general possession of a firearm or other weapon is banned “in the building of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary school.”  While a couple exceptions exist, the one that caused confusion was the exception for weapons “possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.”  The phrase “possessed for other lawful purpose” led to this ambiguity, and while in the book the authors urged that it was best to “err on the side of caution” or not carry weapons on school property, even if they were possessed with a valid LTCF, we did not have a clear cut answer.

Well thanks to a case decided recently (July 6, 2016) by the Superior Court in Pennsylvania we now have an answer.  In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Andrew Josiah Goslin the court held that Goslin, who brought a knife (which he otherwise lawfully possessed) to a parent teacher conference about an incident with his son, was not exempted from the prohibition of weapons on school grounds, and inside school facilities.  The Court suggested that had he brought the knife to school as part of his work as a contractor, completing work at the school, or as an actual exhibit attendant to the meeting, he would have been covered.

So what does this mean for LTCF holders?  It means that just because you legally carry your firearm, and are not coming to the school intending to do something illegal with it, you are not covered by the “other lawful purpose” exception.  The court drew a distinction between possessing a weapon at a school and not doing anything illegal, and having it there as part of something that the weapon was purposed for and was part of an activity.  In essence, someone like a police officer, coming to the school with his firearm, as part of his duty, where he normally carries a firearm to protect himself, would be covered by the “other lawful exception” clause.  However, an individual, coming to pick his child up, and otherwise lawfully possessing a weapon with a LTCF would not be covered by the exception.  The upside to all this, is that at least now we have a clear cut answer.  Do not bring weapons to a school even if you otherwise lawfully possess them.

[Hat tip to our summer legal intern Gil Ambler who authored this blog post and update]