Tag Archives: PA Gun Lawyer

Superior Court Holds That Switchblades Are Not Protected By The Second Amendment

Yesterday, in a very short non-precedential opinion, a three judge panel of the Superior Court held in Commonwealth v. William Battle that a switchblade is not protected by the Second Amendment.

As discussed in the decision, there is no dispute that upon entering the Pike County Administrative Building, Mr. Battle emptied his pockets, including a switchbade knife, at the metal detectors and was thereafter arrested. The sole issue that he raised on appeal was: “Whether the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, in prohibiting the possession of automatic knives, violates the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution?” Interestingly, it does not appear that an argument was raised in relation to Article 1, Section 21, although I cannot honestly state that I believe the outcome would have been any different.

In the 5 page decision, for which the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent Second Amendment holding Caetano v. Massachusetts is not mentioned (and causes me to wonder whether Mr. Battle’s public defender addressed it- UPDATE: Battle’s attorney Jason Ohliger confirmed below in the comments that he did raise it and it was central to his argument), the Superior Court declares that “Appellant’s reliance on Heller is misplaced, as offensive weapons are not covered by the constitutional right to bear arms.”

In what can only be described as a twisted form of logic to support its conclusion, the court states that since switchblades “are not possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” they are considered dangerous and unusual weapons. Thus, by the mere fact that the General Assembly declared them unlawful – thereby preventing individuals from lawfully possessing switchblades – the court contends that switchblades are not possessed by law-abiding individuals. Does that make your head hurt? Cause it does mine.

In essence, if the court’s logic was correct, then D.C.’s ban that was struck down in Heller as unconstitutional, should have been declared constitutional, since it was unlawful for any law-abiding individual to possess an operable firearm in his/her home in D.C. Also lost on the court is the fact that only 15 states ban switchblades, with the remaining finding that they do have a common lawful purpose. Unfortunately, I doubt this was brought to the court’s attention. UPDATE: Contrary to my assumption, Battle’s attorney Jason Ohliger confirmed below in the comments that he reviewed which states permit vs. which states do not permit switchblades.

The only saving grace is that this decision was a non-precedential decision by a three judge panel. Pursuant to the Superior Court’s Internal Operating Procedure 65.37:

An unpublished memorandum decision shall not be relied upon or cited by a Court or a party in any other action or proceeding, except that such a memorandum decision may be relied upon or cited (1) when it is relevant under the doctrine of law of the case, res judicata, or collateral estoppel, and (2) when the memorandum is relevant to a criminal action or proceeding because it recites issues raised and reasons for a decision affecting the same defendant in a prior action or proceeding. When an unpublished memorandum is relied upon pursuant to this rule, a copy of the memorandum must be furnished to the other party to the Court.

If you have been charged with carrying a switchblade, contact us today to discuss your legal options.

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Filed under Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Chief Counsel Prince Secures MONUMENTAL Decision from the Superior Court, en banc, regarding Possession of Weapons on School Property

Today, the Superior Court, en banc, issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin, 1114 MDA 2015, regarding whether an individual is entitled to claim the defense of “other lawful purpose” when carrying a weapon on school grounds.

As our viewers are aware, after the original devastating decision was issued by the Superior Court holding that one could not possess a weapon on school grounds, unless it was related to a school activity, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince contacted Mr. Goslin and offered to represent him in petitioning the Superior Court to reconsider his case, en banc, and permit re-briefing and oral argument. After filing the motion for reconsideration, the Superior Court vacated its prior decision, granted reconsideration, en banc, and permitted the parties to re-brief the matter and to argue the matter at oral argument. Thereafter, Chief Counsel Prince re-briefed the matter and attended oral argument.

Today, the Superior Court, en banc, without any dissenting opinions, filed its decision vacating the trial court’s finding of guilt and declaring:

We disagree with the trial court’s conclusion that the language of Section 912(c) is vague.
Rather, we conclude that, in order to ascertain the meaning of Section 912(c), we need not look beyond its plain language. 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, as Chief Counsel Prince specifically argued this exact construction and noted the different verbs utilized related to the different provisions)

Consistent therewith, the court declared that:

for purposes of the instant case, the plain meaning of the phrase “other lawful purpose” is an aim or goal different from, or in addition to, an aim or goal described in the first clause of Section 912(c), i.e., in conjunction with “a lawful supervised school activity or course.” The second clause of this subsection, thus, serves as a catchall provision.

Contrary to the trial court’s conclusion, the “other lawful purpose” language does not restrict the defense provided in Section 912(c). Instead, the phrase does just the opposite: it expands the defense to include any additional or different lawful reason not otherwise mentioned in the first clause of Section 912(c), regardless of whether it is school-related. (emphasis added, as Chief Counsel Prince additionally argued this construction of the statute).

The Superior Court also included a footnote declaring:

Although we are concerned about individuals possessing weapons on school property, we are bound by the broad defense that the legislature has provided defendants in such cases.

As our readers are aware, unfortunately,  Mr. Goslin was not in a position to fund this litigation and his costs will continue to accrue, as the case is now remanded back to the trial court. 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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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

It’s Legal To Carry a Firearm, While Voting!

While I have blogged on the topic extensively, 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 prohibited under state law. Accordingly, 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, see my article – Voting While Carrying a Firearm in PA – It’s Legal!

Carrying while Voting Joshua Prince(Your PA Firearms Attorney® voting in 2013 with a Sig on my right hip)

When Northampton County previously precluded one of my clients from voting, I took action, which resulted in Northampton County now informing all of its voters of their general right to carry a firearm, while voting. http://www.northamptoncounty.org/northampton/cwp/view.asp…|34800|&northamptonNav_GID=1988 declaring

The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa.C.S.A. Sections 6101 et seq., permits any person permitted to possess a firearm to openly carry or, with a license to carry firearm, to conceal carry the firearm in Northampton County with the exception of elementary schools, secondary schools, or court facilities. No individual shall be precluded from entering a polling location while lawfully carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed, unless such polling location constitutes an elementary school, secondary school, or court facility. No individual shall be precluded from voting while lawfully carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed, unless such polling location constitutes an elementary school, secondary school, or court facility. No sign shall be drafted, written, erected, placed, or visibly available at any polling location precluding an individual from entering a polling location or voting while in lawful possession of a firearm.

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 anyone precludes you from voting while carrying a firearm, contact our office – 888-313-0416 or info@princelaw.com – so that we can discuss your legal options.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law