As our viewers are aware, I previously blogged about some of the issues with SB 383 in relation to permitting Pennsylvania teachers to carry firearms in schools. While some minor amendments have been offered in relation to it, there are still a plethora of issues, which preclude me from supporting it, even though I am highly in favor of arming our teachers. Since SB 383 will be up for a vote this week and some are attempting to preclude Senators from being fully aware of the issues with the Bill, I am setting forth all the issues with the bill below and asking that you please contact your Senator and demand that the Bill either be amended to address the below issues or that they vote nay on the Bill.
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 original bill did nothing to address the confidentiality of this information and how a school district is to protect the disclosure of this information. How is a school official to prove compliance with the provision requiring a license to carry? Will he/she be required to provide a copy of his/her LTCF? If so, to whom? Who will have access to that photocopy? Clearly, not all school personnel should have access to this and in fact, those who should have access should be an EXTREMELY shall group. Will there be logs maintained of who accesses the information? What training about the confidentiality of this information is to be provided to those who are authorized to have access? What logs will be maintained of the training provided to them and certifications by the school official that he/she received the training and that he/she shall keep the information confidential, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i)? Who will have access to those logs and certifications? What is to happen where a school official discloses information in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i)? Shouldn’t that person be immediately removed from having access to that information?
There are other tangential issues that aren’t addressed in the Bill. What about revocation of the school employee’s privilege to carry pursuant to this Bill, if some issue arises with the employee? Obviously, any such action must comport with due process protections. What about where the school employee’s license to carry is revoked or renewal denied or it just expires? How frequently will checks be done to see if the school official is still in compliance with the requirements of the bill? And these are only some of the concerns…
Based on the concern I raised, an amendment to the Bill modified this issue slightly, but still misses the mark and reflects the lack of comprehension of the issues involved. Amended SB 383 merely provides that the information regarding specific school personnel permitted access to firearms in a school “may not be disclosed during a meeting open to the public.” Well great, now what about access to the information at all other times, ensuring that it remains confidential and all the other issues raised above?
Third, and as I addressed as previously being the 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. Specifically, under the original bill, an individual intent on harming our children, including a potential terrorist or terrorist group, could seemingly 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.
Again, based on the concern I raised, amended SB 383 now specifically provides that none of the information is subject to the RTKL.
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.
While some are astonished that I would take this position, I think it is important to point out that teacher can ALREADY carry on school grounds, based on the Superior Court’s en banc decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin and even prior to it, I am aware of several school districts that petitioned several different courts of common pleas for orders approving individual teachers to possess firearms on school grounds.
For all of the above reasons, I am asking you to contact your State Senator and tell him/her to either demand amendments to SB 383 that address the above or that vote nay on the Bill.