Recently, there has been a lot of public interest and questions asked about Pennsylvania Senate Bill 383, which seeks to provide school districts with the ability to approve school personnel to carry firearms in schools. As many of you are aware, I fully support having armed school personnel in our schools; however, this bill suffers from many issues that appear to have never been considered.
First, it requires the school official to have a license to carry firearms (“LTCF”). Why is this of concern? Well, SB 383 fails to consider that LTCF applicant information is confidential and not subject to disclosure; whereby, the disclosure of such information is a felony of the 3rd degree and permits civil penalties. Specifically, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(g)(3.1) provides:
Any person, licensed dealer, licensed manufacturer or licensed importer who knowingly and intentionally obtains or furnishes information collected or maintained pursuant to section 6109 for any purpose other than compliance with this chapter or who knowingly or intentionally disseminates, publishes or otherwise makes available such information to any person other than the subject of the information commits a felony of the third degree.
Section 6111(i) then provides, in pertinent part:
Confidentiality. — All information provided by the … applicant, including, but not limited to, the … applicant’s name or identity, furnished by … any applicant for a license to carry a firearm as provided by section 6109 shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. In addition to any other sanction or penalty imposed by this chapter, any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department that violates this subsection shall be liable in civil damages in the amount of $ 1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.
Second, the bill does nothing to address the confidentiality of this information and how a school district is to protect the disclosure of this information. Who is entitled within the school district to see and have access to this information? Are logs to be kept of who views it and when? Is any training on the confidentiality of LTCF applicant information to be provided to school officials who have access to this information? If so, how frequently? Are logs to be kept of their training? These are all important issues that are not addressed, in any form, by the bill.
I also question why an LTCF is the determining criteria instead of the person being Act 235 certified. It would seem to be far more logical to me to remove the LTCF requirement and replace it with an Act 235 requirement.
Third, and most concerning is the fact that without the confidentiality of this information being addressed in SB 383, one wonders whether such information will be disclosed to the public, including through Right To Know Law (“RTKL”) requests. If so, now an individual intent on harming our children, including a potential terrorist or terrorist group, could learn, in advance, whether a school district has any armed personnel. If so, the criminal/terrorist is likely to target those school personnel first. If, on the other hand, a RTKL request comes back stating that there are no relevant records, such would highlight that there are no armed personnel and that the school is an extremely soft target.
Although I support arming our school personnel, SB 383 fails to address many significant concerns and therefore, I cannot support it in its current form. My hope is that the General Assembly takes action to correct SB 383.