Tag Archives: gun

The Goslin Decision’s Impact on Possessing Weapons on School Property

As our viewers are aware, earlier, we posted about the Superior Court’s monumental decision in Commonwealth v Goslin, where the court, en banc, held that the “plain meaning of Section 912(c) provides two separate defenses: possessing and using a weapon on school property ‘in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity’ as well as possessing ‘for other lawful purpose’.” (emphasis added)

But what does this mean? What is the impact? And why did the court remand the case to the trial court for a new trial?

First, it is extremely important to note that although this is an extremely favorable decision, the law provides that either of the separate two defenses are just that – defenses. Specifically, Section 912(c) provides:

It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.

This means that the Commonwealth can charge you and force you to raise Section 912(c) as a defense and be acquitted by way of the defense, if you are legally entitled to the defense.

But what does that mean? Well, everyone wants bright line rules but unfortunately, in most cases, there aren’t bright line rules, when you wade into the minutiae of scenarios that can arise. So, let’s talk about what are the bright line rules from this decision:

  1. If you are prohibited from possessing a certain type of weapon (such as firearms or stun guns), you cannot utilize this defense, as you would not be in lawful possession of the weapon and therefore would not have a lawful purpose.
  2. If one is required to have special licensing to possess the weapon (such as a license to carry firearms (“LTCF”)) and you do not have an LTCF, you cannot utilize this defense, as you would not be in lawful possession of the weapon and therefore would not have a lawful purpose.
  3. If you intend to commit or actually do use your firearm to commit a crime on school grounds, you cannot utilize this defense, as you would have an unlawful purpose.

But, what if I am not prohibited from possessing a certain type of weapon, have the requisite licensing (if any) to possess the weapon and am carrying the weapon for purposes of self-defense, can I possess the weapon on school grounds?

Based on this decision (and other arguments under the PA and US Constitutions), you would be entitled to the defense found in Section 912(c); however, as mentioned above, nothing would prevent the District Attorney from charging you and forcing you to prove your defense. Now, that being said, few law enforcement officers are going to want to charge someone in this situation, because if they do, and the charges are dismissed or you are acquitted, you can bring a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against them for violating your rights.

Ok, but what if I need to utilize the weapon I am carrying on school grounds, let’s say for purpose of self-defense?

Here, while there are great arguments – arguments that we raised in our briefing – the decision does not address whether someone possessing a weapon for “other lawful purposes” may use it. In fact, a significant portion of my argument was that the General Assembly utilized different verbs for the different clauses. Specifically, you will see that the General Assembly permitted both use and possession in relation to a “lawful supervised school activity or course” (due to school shooting teams, Boy Scouts…etc, which actively possess and use weapons on school grounds) but only specified possession in relation to “other lawful purpose.” Moreover, as Mr. Goslin was not required to use the pocketknife that he lawfully possessed, this was not an issue before the court. That being said, if an individual, who possessed the weapon for purposes of self-defense, later used that weapon on school grounds for purposes of self-defense, there are great constitutional and statutory arguments that one can make to permit the use of the weapon in that limited circumstance.

Accordingly, the key points are that anyone lawfully possessing a weapon on school grounds ensure that they are possessing it for a lawful purpose (e.g. self-defense) and they understand that they can be charged with violating Section 912 and forced to argue the defense under Section 912(c).

So why did the Superior Court remand this case to the trial court?

Well, although the record establishes that Mr. Goslin lawfully possessed his knife, the trial court never addressed whether he lawfully possessed his knife, as it held that he wasn’t entitled to the defense since his possession of the knife was not related to a school activity. It is for that reason that the Superior Court remanded it back to the trial for a new trial. However, since posting our article on the decision, the District Attorney reached out to me and advised that they do not plan to appeal and intend to nolle prosequi (in essence, dismiss) the charges against Mr. Goslin. Accordingly, Mr. Goslin will not have go through another trial or file additional motions.

As our readers are aware, unfortunately,  Mr. Goslin was not in a position to fund this litigation. Therefore, if you are in a position to be able to help fund this monumental victory, Mr. Goslin would greatly appreciate donations which can be made online through our Firm’s escrow account here – https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/princelaw/trust. Simply place Goslin Appeal in the Matter No/Client Name box.

If you or someone you know has been charged with possessing a weapon on school grounds, contact us today to discuss YOUR rights.

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Lower Merion Township Petitions for Allowance to Appeal in Firearm Preemption Case

As our readers are aware, on December 16, 2016, the Commonwealth Court issued its decision in Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), et al. v. Lower Merion Township, where it held that Lower Merion Township’s preclusion of firearms in township parks was unlawful.

On Friday, January 13, 2017, Lower Merion Township filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which was docketed at 36 MAL 2017. Thereafter, on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, the City of Philadelphia and City of Harrisburg filed amicus curiae briefs with the Court, asking it to grant Lower Merion Township’s request and overturn the Commonwealth Court’s decision. Later today, we will file our Answer in opposition to Lower Merion’s request.

Generally, once our Answer is filed, it will take the PA Supreme Court between 6 to 8 months, if not more, to decide whether to hear Lower Merion’s appeal and if it grants Lower Merion’s appeal, what legal issues it agrees to consider.

If your rights have been violated by an illegal firearm or ammunition ordinance or regulation promulgated by a state agency, county, municipality or township, contact us today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.

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U.S. Government to Withdraw Appeal in Second Amendment As-Applied Challenge Relating to a Mental Health Commitment

As our viewers are aware, I was previously successful in establishing a right to relief in a Second Amendment as-applied challenge involving a mental health commitment – Monumental Decision from the Middle District of Pennsylvania Regarding Mental Health Commitments and the Second Amendment. Thereafter, the U.S. Government filed an appeal to the Third Circuit Court, where the case is currently pending briefing.

Today, the U.S. Government filed a notice with the Third Circuit that the Acting Solicitor General has elected not to sustain the appeal and the Government will be seeking to withdraw the matter in 30 days, as the Government must provide the U.S. Congress with 30 days notice, for the U.S. Congress to intervene if it sees fit. A copy of the letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan can be downloaded here.

Accordingly, it appears that in 30 days, the appeal will be withdrawn and the only remaining issue will be the attorney fees and costs to be assessed against the Government.

If you have been denied your inalienable right to Keep and Bear Arms as the result of a mental health commitment or non-violent misdemeanor offense, contact us today to discuss your options. Together, we can vindicate YOUR rights!

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Seminar: What Happens After You Use Your Firearm In PA

On January 7, 2017, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince and Attorney Adam Kraut of Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG), a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., in conjunction with former JAG E. Allen Chandler of Firearms Legal Protection and King Shooters Supply, will provide an hour and a half seminar on what happens after you use your firearm in Pennsylvania. For only $10, you will be provided information on the legal consequences of a violent encounter and how to avoid common mistakes that can cost you money, and even your freedom, if you should become involved in a self-defense situation.

All attendees must per-register, and if there is extensive demand, we may schedule another seminar later in the day. To register, simply visit King Shooter Supply’s website.

Brought to you by your PA Firearms Lawyer® and your PA Gun Attorney® and home of the Armor Piercing Arguments®.

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Commonwealth Court Finds Lower Merion Township’s Firearm Regulations UNLAWFUL

Today, in a case that I handled, the Commonwealth Court issued a decision in Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), et al. v. Lower Merion Township, 1693 C.D. 2015, reversing the trial court and finding that FOAC was entitled to a preliminary injunction against Lower Merion Township’s unlawful firearm regulations.

The background to the case is that in 2011, Lower Merion Township passed an ordinance amending section 109-16 of its Code (Ordinance) to prohibit persons from “carry[ing] or discharg[ing] firearms of any kind in a park without a special permit, unless exempted.” Lower Merion Township, Pa., Code §109-16. The Ordinance imposes a maximum fine of $600.00 per violation and authorizes the police to remove violators from Township parks or recreation areas.

In 2014, FOAC  contacted the Township and alleged that the Ordinance violated section 6120 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (UFA) because it improperly restricted firearm possession in Township parks. Upon review, the Township determined that the Ordinance was consistent with the UFA because it only prohibited the unlawful possession of firearms in parks and, therefore, chose not to repeal or revise it. Shortly thereafter, FOAC and a resident of the Township filed suit in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and sought a preliminary injunction that the court denied. The underlying appeal ensued.

Reaffirming the PA Supreme Court’s decision in Ortiz v. Commonwealth, 681 A.2d 152 (Pa. 1996), the Commonwealth Court found that FOAC’s right to relief was clear. Specifically, the Commonwealth Court declared

Rather, the critical upshot is our recognition that Ortiz’s “crystal clear holding” prohibits this Court from endorsing the argument that a cognizable distinction exists between regulating lawful activity and unlawful activity.

Moreover, based on Commonwealth Court Judge Pelligrini’s prior footnote (known as fn. 9) in Dillon v. City of Erie, 3 A.3d 467 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014) (en banc), the Township attempted to argue that it could regulate as a private property owner. In explicitly rejecting the Township’s argument, the Court held that

the UFA explicitly prohibits a township from regulating “in any manner” and contains no express exemptions authorizing a township to enact ordinances permitting firearm regulation on its property, i.e., parks, comparable to that contained in the Game Law…Therefore, the Township’s argument that Firearm Owners’ right to relief is not clear based on its authority to regulate its parks as a property owner pursuant to Wolfe is unpersuasive.

Furthermore, the Court found the Township’s arguments that immediate and irreparable harm would not result as absurd, given the statutory proscription on regulating firearms and ammunition. Likewise, the Court found that “refusing an injunction would sanction the Township’s continued statutory violations of the UFA and, therefore, be injurious to Firearm Owners and the public” and that “the last nonconstested status existed prior to the Township’s enactment of the Ordinance. Therefore, an injunction enjoining the Ordinance would restore the parties to their last uncontested status and preserve the status quo.”

For those interested, you can download copies of our Brief and Reply Brief, by clicking on the applicable prior text.

Please join me in thanking FOAC for remaining steadfast in its dedication to defending Article 1, Section 21 and 18 Pa.C.S. 6120. I would highly encourage anyone in a financial position to do so, to donate to FOAC so it can continue to support important litigation defending our Rights.

#BestHanukahPresentFromTheCommonwealthCourtEVER! #MerryChristmasSenatorLeach #SenatorLeachITookMyBestShotAndWON! (This is in relation to your comment that I should take my “best shot” at 1:27 mark – http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Gun-Rights-Supporters-Rally-in-Suburban-Philadelphia-296381701.html)

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Symbolism That We Can All Learn From

I was struck by an article this morning on Fox News regarding two moose who were found frozen in Alaska with their horns interlocked. The symbolism, without even reading the article, struck me. How many would would recognize the underlying moral to the story?

I frequently lecture on the use of force and that in many occasions, the best response, if possible, is to remove yourself from the situation. Yet, for some, sometimes their emotions, their “man card” and their pride preclude them from heading my advice. So, let me try through an extremely poignant picture.

Dog fight bird symbolism.jpg

What can we learn from this picture?

First, sometimes our safest and most astute response to provocation is not to fight; but rather, to walk away. Yet, some may see or comprehend this as an opportunity lost.

However, the second learning experience that we can take away from this picture is that not all opportunities are to be taken, as some opportunities are traps that may lead to our own demise.

And this leads us to the third learning experience that we, as human beings, can become so determined to harm or destroy our adversary that we become blind and end up destroying ourselves.

And let me be abundantly clear, your actions may be completely justified and supported by the law and yet, even if you survive the encounter without even a scratch, you still may destroy yourself. Few people can comprehend the impact on their psychological state after being involved in a use of force situation, even where the perpetrator was only harmed and survived. There are reasons, as Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman points out in his book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, that our soldiers, historically, are disinclined to kill, unless we dehumanize the enemy, and that there are relatively few recorded instances in history of soldiers using bayonets against one another. I have in my profession, unfortunately, seen the aftermath of a justified use of force situation on an individual’s psychological well-being…I have also seen the aftermath of a non-justified use of force situation on an individuals psychological well-being and frankly, they do not tend to be that different. You will not be the same, at least, not for a while, although you will believe you are the same exact individual. Your family – those that you love the most – however, will see drastic changes in you. And with time, love, support and proper counseling, you can go back to being substantially similar to who you were before, but you’ll never be the exact same.

Keep this in mind if you find yourself in a situation, where you can safely remove yourself. There is far more to be proud of in deescalating a situation than the possibility of your family sitting over your grave.

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Political Speech – Carrying a Firearm While Voting in PA – It’s Lawful!

While I have blogged on the topic extensively, several individuals have requested that I write an article including all the pertinent information (and include new Dept. of State guidance on the topic) in one article, as many residents of Pennsylvania are unaware of their right to carry a firearm while voting, unless their polling location is located at a place which is prohibited under state law, discussed below. The right to carry a firearm while voting is a political statement protected under the First and Second Amendment. In that vein, I did a short video on the right to carry a firearm, while voting. For those interested in a more in-depth review of the general right to carry a firearm while voting in Pennsylvania, keep reading.

Carrying while Voting Joshua Prince

During the last two election cycles, I wrote about this issue: Can You Vote While Carrying a Firearm in PA? and It’s Legal to Carry a Firearm, While Voting! In fact, since those articles, more and more counties (and the PA Dept. of State) are realizing and recognizing the lawful right of the people to vote, while carrying a firearm. Before we get into more recent instances of counties recognizing the right of the people, it is important to review the laws in relation to voting, while carrying a firearm.

Pursuant to 18 PA.C.S. 6120,

No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.

Furthermore, pursuant to the PA Supreme Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Hawkins, 547 Pa. 652, 657 (1997), and 18 PA.C.S. 6108, one may lawful carry openly in the Commonwealth, with the exception of the City of Philadelphia, unless the individual has a License to Carry Firearms (LTCF). In Hawkins, the Court, citing to its prior precedent in Ortiz v. Commonwealth, declared,

In all parts of Pennsylvania, persons who are licensed may carry concealed firearms. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6108. Except in Philadelphia, firearms may be carried openly without a license. See Ortiz v. Commonwealth, 545 Pa. 279, 681 A.2d 152, 155 (1996) (only in Philadelphia must a person obtain a license for carrying a firearm whether it is unconcealed or concealed; in other parts of the Commonwealth, unconcealed firearms do not require a license).

Thus, it is generally lawful to openly or conceal carry a firearm (pursuant to a valid LTCF, issued pursuant to 18 PA.C.S. 6109), as there does not exist a state law precluding such activity. However, there are several exceptions. First, if the polling location is in a court facility, an individual would be precluded from carrying at that polling location because of 18 PA.C.S. 913, which provides, “A person commits an offense if he:(1) knowingly possesses a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a court facility;” however, the law goes on to declare,

Each county shall make available at or within the building containing a court facility by July 1, 2002, lockers or similar facilities at no charge or cost for the temporary checking of firearms by persons carrying firearms under section 6106(b) or 6109 or for the checking of other dangerous weapons that are not otherwise prohibited by law. Any individual checking a firearm, dangerous weapon or an item deemed to be a dangerous weapon at a court facility must be issued a receipt. Notice of the location of the facility shall be posted as required under subsection (d).

Hence, although you cannot carry into a court facility, which is a polling location, the court facility/polling location must provide lockers for the temporary checking of the firearm.

The second issue is polling locations at schools. Pursuant to 18 PA.C.S. 912,

A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a weapon in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school.

However, there is an defense provided for in that section, which declares,

It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.

Unfortunately, “other lawful purpose” is not defined and our viewers are aware that I am currently litigating a case before the Superior Court – Commonwealth v. Goslin – on whether the defense of “other lawful purposes” allows one to possess a weapon on school grounds. (If you’re in a position to donate to the Goslin litigation, Mr. Goslin would greatly appreciate it and the information is included in the above link).

In 2007, Mr. Gregory Rotz, openly carried his firearm while voting, and as a result, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department revoked his LTCF. By Order dated January 8, 2008, Franklin County Judge John Waller found that no law had been broken and directed that his LTCF be returned to him. And this isn’t the only time that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department has violated the law. There is currently a class action lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department for disclosing confidential LTCF application information, where the Commonwealth Court recently ruled that the Sheriff’s Department did, in fact, violate the confidentiality provision. But, I digress.

October 29, 2010, the Pa. Dept. of State, Bureau of Commissions, Elections & Legislation, issued a letter entitled “Clarification Regarding Firearm Polling Locations,” which, in part, declared,

The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act does not allow county boards of election to enact resolutions or any other rules and regulations prohibiting firearms from polling places.

However, even after the issuance of that letter, I became involved in a situation in Northampton County in 2012, where an individual was temporarily precluded from voting, while lawfully openly carrying a firearm. As a result of an amicable resolution of the matter, Northampton County has now placed on its website information that it is lawful to possess a firearm while voting, http://www.northamptoncounty.org/northampton/cwp/view.asp?a=1533&Q=621057&northamptonNav=|34800|&northamptonNav_GID=1988. Furthermore, additional safeguards have been implemented in Northampton County, including, but not limited to, poll worker training and providing a copy of the policy to any Common Pleas Judge presiding over Election Court on Election Day.

More recently, in October of 2016, the Pa. Dept. of State issued Guidance on Rules in Effect at the Polling Place on Election Day (yeah, the title is a bit awkward). As a result of a letter that I sent to the Dept. of State several months ago regarding the carrying of firearms while voting and the general lack of training of polling officials on the lawfulness, the Dept. of State included information in the guidance. Specifically, the guidance states:

Voters who have a legal right to carry a firearm cannot be prohibited from entering the polling place to vote…a voter with a legal right to carry a firearm may not be precluded from voting.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to vote, regardless of whether or not you carry a firearm. While I believe voting while carrying a firearm is a political statement, the failure of so many citizens to become involved in the political process may result in us losing our right to make any political statement, as evidenced by the current state of our Union.

If you, a family member or someone you know is precluding from voting, while carrying a firearm, contact us immediately – 888-313-0416 or info@princelaw.com – so that we can discuss your options. We cannot let our Rights be eroded by ignorance.

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