Last week, charges were dropped against a man who brought a handgun into a Pennsylvania middle school. The Delaware County District Attorney withdrew the charges because of what he describes as a quirk in the law. Bringing weapons on school grounds is permitted by state law so long as the weapon is being used for a lawful purpose. According to the District Attorney, this broad definition,as set forth by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in a case earlier this year, would have prevented him from being able to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Although the school district’s policy bans bringing weapons on school grounds, state law permits it if the weapon is being used in a lawful, supervised school activity or possessed for ‘other lawful purpose’. In a case decided earlier this year,Commonwealth v. Goslin, a carpenter appealed his conviction for bringing a pocket knife to a parent teacher conference at a Pennsylvania elementary school. Arguing that he used the pocket knife for innocuous reasons like opening tuna cans for lunch, the carpenter won his appeal and the court agreed that weapons could be brought onto school grounds as long as the weapon is being used for a lawful purpose.
In this case, the man who brought the weapon to school will not face criminal penalties for possessing a weapon on school property because the charges against him were dropped. The District Attorney explained that once the man was able to demonstrate that he had a lawful purpose, he would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the man violated the law. He therefore dropped the charges but suggested that the ‘other lawful purpose’ language is a quirk in the law that should be reexamined.
The Pennsylvania legal system will also have the opportunity to decide on a bill which would allow school workers to carry guns on school grounds as long as they have valid concealed-carry permits. The bill has passed the state Senate and has not yet been taken up in the House. The District Attorney disagreed with the bill, stating that although he supports the second amendment, the protection of anyone inside a school building should be the paramount concern.
Source: Guns.com, “Man brings gun to school, charges dropped because of ‘quirky’ state law,” Christen Smith, July 10, 2017