Gun Law

Gun law, both Federal and Pennsylvania

5 Most Common Self-Defense Scenarios

According to the Texas law firm of Armed Attorneys, here are the five most common self-defense scenarios they have seen, either in a previous life as prosecutors, or now, as defense attorneys.

The person intervening may not know the circumstances as to what caused the fight in the first place.

5. Breaking Up A Fight

It may start out as a use of force or low level of non-lethal force incident and quickly escalates into a deadly force incident, if one or both of the combatants pulls out a knife, a gun or some other instrument which can be considered deadly force. The person intervening may not know all the circumstances as to why the combatants are belligerent with each other. Often people who insert themselves into the scenario to break it up often do not know who the initial aggressor is and who the “victim” is. But keep in mind that 3rd party defense is not legal in every state.

Juries don’t like when the combatants escalate the situation, rather than letting cooler heads prevail.

4. Breaking Up A Bar Fight

Everyone is drinking, Some may be intoxicated. Guilt or innocence will not be based on the amount of alcohol in one’s system but based on an ordinary prudent man. Keep in mind that if you are truly the “victim” and use an excessive amount of force to defend yourself, you may be arrested for some level of assault. Juries don’t like it when people heighten emotions or tension, aka heightening the incident. To avoid this, don’t become intoxicated. Be cognizant of not provoking an incident. Don’t let your pride take over.

3. Neighbor Disputes

Neighbor disputes are one of the worst self-defense scenarios, because even if you win, you lose, since you still have to live next door to that neighbor.

This comes up in many different forms; a neighbor who does not respect a property boundary, or a neighbor who has dogs who is destroying property, such as destroying or tunnelling under fences, and killing livestock. The biggest pitfall with these disputes is that the police may not know or won’t be privy to the leadup history between neighbors which escalated over time. The police will look at that snapshot of time at that moment of occurrence. Law enforcement hates responding to neighbor disputes. If they get called out due to a use of force 911 call, they will undoubtedly arrest one of the neighbors, perhaps both. They do not want to hear the entire backstory. Keep in mind that if you get arrested, the problem doesn’t go away. You still have to live next to that neighbor and that neighbor still hates your guts. The neighbor who did not get arrested may call the prosecutor’s office and demand maximum punishment for the accused, simply because the non-arrested neighbor has to see the one who got arrested every day.

2. Dog Attacks

If you absolutely, positively have to shoot an attacking dog, be cognizant of your community’s ordinance, if any, on discharging a gun inside city limits.

Much of the time, the culmination of past history with bad dogs is when one neighbor simply shoots the attacking dog, not necessarily based on what that dog is doing at that moment in time. Let’s suppose a few weeks ago, an aggressive dog attacked and killed your small dog. Then today you see the aggressive dog in his own yard not being aggressive, and you simply shoot it. When police arrive, they don’t want to hear “that dog killed my dog three weeks ago.” Instead, the police will ask “what was that dog doing today?”  Keep in mind that if the aggressive dog is on your property, merely trespassing on your property does not give you the legal right to use deadly force. Another scenario of this type is where you are walking your leashed dogs in your neighborhood or on a trail. There is a rise in loose-running, unsupervised aggressive dogs lately. Should this be the case, you may want to think of using a defensive tool that is not lethal, because if all you have on you is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Carry a non-lethal tool for defense.  And the reason is that shooting the aggressive dog may get you arrested. It may not be for cruelty to animals, but rather your city or town may have an ordinance against discharging a firearm inside city limits.

1. Road Rage

Be prudent and do everything you can to de-escalate the situation. In the jury room, juries will ask themselves “why didn’t he just drive away?”

Even if you are minding your own business and think you are the good guy and will just set your handgun on the dashboard to scare the road rage aggressor, doing so during a road rage incident will get you arrested. In Pennsylvania, while there is no brandishing law, there is a terroristic threats law, and simply setting your handgun on the dashboard may construe a silent terroristic threat.  Road rage incidences are a “he said, she said” type of incident, so as soon as you display your handgun, the aggressive driver is calling the police to report your bad driving with a gun, not their own bad driving. Even if you don’t point the gun. The other aggressive driver will always report that you pointed the gun. If you carry in your vehicle, make every attempt to de-escalate the situation and avoid road rage, because if the other driver told the police, you pointed a gun at them, and the police find a gun in your vehicle, you will be arrested. Do not pull out your gun unless it is absolutely the last resort. If the other person exist their vehicle and comes at you with a tire iron or a gun, you have every right to defend yourself with your firearm, but don’t pull out your firearm until the scenario escalates. One of the things the police, prosecutors and jury will look for is “could you have avoided or de-escalated the situation by simply driving away?” Even in Pennsylvania, which is a “Stand Your Ground” state and you have every legal right to stay put, juries just can’t help themselves. They will ask each other in the jury room, “why didn’t the victim simply drive away?”

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Justified Use Of Force

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

Generally speaking, if you shoot someone, that is a crime. You will be charged with murder, aggravated assault, or the like.

However, the law also recognizes there are legal reasons or legal justifications for shooting someone. You will be basically saying “I did the crime, but I had a legal justification for doing so.” Therefore, I want you to read the following sentence in bold, re-read it, continue to re-read it until you have committed it to memory. Knowledge of this sentence may just keep you from showering with Bubba for the next 15 years to life.

A Reasonable Belief That Deadly Force Was Immediately Necessary To Prevent Death, Serious Bodily Injury, Kidnapping Or Rape.

Again, re-read the above until committed to memory. If you ever have to draw your gun in self-defense, you NEED to know the above law. This IS your legal justification recognized here in Pennsylvania.

Now, let’s break down this sentence:

Reasonable – Would an average ordinary citizen do what you just did in an identical circumstance? You need to convince a jury that your actions were reasonable, and that if they were in your shoes, they too, would have done what you did. Keep in mind that the judge, the attorneys, and the jury were not present when you took action. So one of their determinants regarding your guilt or innocence is them agreeing that your actions were reasonable.

Belief – Did YOU believe that failure to act would have meant death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or rape to either you or a loved one? You will need to convince a jury that you truly believed that shooting an attacker was your only option. Note: fear does not come into play here. If you are deathly afraid of clowns, you may not shoot them simply because you are afraid of them. Again, the judge, attorneys and jury were not present when the incident went down, so they need to agree that you truly believed your actions prevented death or injury to you or others.

Deadly Force – In this context “deadly force” does not mean someone died. It means that whatever method used to stop the attack was readily capable of causing death….a baseball bat, a frying pan, a golf club. While the initial design of those implements was not to be deadly, if they are used in a manner readily capable of causing death, they are considered deadly force. Shooting a bad guy in the leg with your .22 can be considered deadly force. If a bad guy is attempting to steal the tires off your car, you may use force to stop him, but not deadly force. You may push him away. You may call 911. However, if he turns and charges you with the tire iron, you have the right to defend yourself. You can use whatever means are necessary in defense of your life, up to and including deadly force. So if a bad guy approaches you in an aggressive manner with your car’s tire iron, you do what is necessary to defend yourself if you reasonably believe you have to do it.

Immediately Necessary – legal justification happens for only a split second. Was deadly force necessary NOW, at that moment in time, to stop an attack? If an attacker says “let me get my gun and I will come back to kill you”, that is not immediately. Immediately means happening at this very moment. If he says, “I’ll be back next week to kill you”, that is not immediately. Keep forensic evidence in mind. If investigators discovered the decedent had entry wounds in his back, you may be spending time at the gray bar hotel because entry wounds in the decedent’s back indicate he was fleeing and was shot in the back…the threat had ceased and it was no longer immediately necessary to shoot.

Prevent Death – If you did not act at that very moment, you would have been killed, seriously injured, kidnapped or raped. The law is written to protect life, not property. If a bad guy is out of your house with your large flat panel TV, let him go. You can always file a homeowner’s insurance claim to get a new TV. But you cannot get another child. Your spouse cannot get another you.

Serious Bodily Injury – this means the injury was so severe as to cause paralysis, missing limbs, maiming, long bouts with physical therapy, etc. It does not mean a cut on the forehead or a black and blue mark on your butt cheek from being pushed to the ground.

Kidnapping – this means removing a victim from their current location and moving them to another location. FBI statistics reveal that nearly 90% of kidnappings result in murder of the victim.

Rape – sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat.

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Stop Being In Denial

There are four actions you must undertake if you decide you are going to conceal carry. The first is to select the right carry gun for you. The second is to select the right carry method for that gun (holster or other). The third is to get trained. If you decide to carry without getting trained, you are nothing more than a thug.

But the topic here deals with the fourth action you need to undertake if you decide to conceal carry, and that is to get some kind of legal protection. It goes by many different names. Gun owner’s liability insurance and self-defense insurance, are just two of the names this protection goes by.

Your homeowner’s insurance will not cover you if you use your gun in self-defense, even inside your own home.

And if you are one of the many who carry concealed without such protection, you need to stop being in denial. Get your head out of your ass and get yourself protected!

Just one incident where you have to defend yourself with your gun is all it takes for your life to be fucked up forever.  If you think I am bullshitting you, click on this YouTube link. At around the 6:30 mark of this video, the author indicates that the defendant amassed close to $700,000 of legal bills, that unfortunately after he passed away in 2012, left his family burdened to pay.

All the defendant wanted to do that day was go for a hike in a national forest in northern Arizona. But as the events transpired, his life and his family’s lives were forever changed. It was bad enough that he took a life, was arrested, tried, convicted and incarcerated until the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the conviction. But then insult was added to injury by the suffocating legal bills.

Now I don’t know about you. But I don’t have money deliberately saved up and earmarked for bail much less any potential gun-related legal defense.

Yet, here are some common excuses I hear as to why concealed carry gun owners do not get legal protection:

  1. I can’t afford it. You cannot afford not to be protected if you carry. If you cannot afford legal protection, then you really cannot afford attorney’s fees.
  2. I can’t pick my own lawyer. With some of the programs out there, you can. Just make sure the lawyer you choose is an expert in your state’s gun or self-defense law. Don’t choose an ambulance chaser simply because the lawyer is your cousin and offered to handle your case pro bono. For me personally, I want the absolute best unbiased gun or self-defense lawyer I can get if the possibility exists I may be incarcerated for 15 to life. So, in my case, I don’t want Cousin Vinny simply because we are family. And with all these plans that allow you to choose your own attorney, the plan will not pay the attorney fees unless the plan underwriters have vetted the attorney. THIS IS THE BIGGEST EXCUSE I HEAR. In my training classes, I ask all students to raise their hand if they have an attorney on retainer that will drop everything and come to their aid. No one raises their hand, yet many of these students are the first ones to need to be able to pick their own lawyer. WHY? By not raising their hand, that student is indicating to me they don’t even have a lawyer, much less one on retainer. So when the excrement impacts the rotary oscillator, the students and others in denial will turn to Google to help them choose a lawyer. AND THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THE ATTORNEY THEY CHOOSE WILL EVEN TAKE THE CASE.
  3. The plan doesn’t pay me for the days I have to miss work because of trial. Then pick a different plan, if that is what is important to you. If this is a deciding factor, how many days are planning to be at trial anyway? Review your employee handbook. Some employers will terminate employees simply for being arrested.
  4. I have to ask my spouse. Seriously?! You have to ask your spouse about what? You need to get your spouse’s permission to get legal protection? Are you shitting me?
  5. I have to wait until payday. Seriously?! You are that strapped that you cannot afford $15.00 per month. If so, then maybe concealed carry should not be your primary focus.
  6. These programs are not available in my state. MOVE! Do you really want to live in a state where you are not permitted to defend yourself and if you do defend yourself, are not even afforded the opportunity to do so without bankrupting the family.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have no mercy for any concealed carry gun-owner out there to not have some form of legal protection. Everyone of these excuses are like assholes…everyone has one and they all stink.

Below is a chart of the most popular legal protection plans available in the U.S.

Look over this chart and highlight the boxes which are important to you. Then go to the respective websites of these companies to see if additional perks exist for members. For example, do any of these companies / plans offer you the ability to call or speak to an attorney for non-emergency legal questions? Do any of these companies / plans offer you the ability to get insight on laws of other states if you plan to travel and conceal through another state?

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Carry A Phone

If you carry a gun, then also carry a phone.  Why?  To take photos? Maybe. To call 911? Bingo!

Criminals will often call 911 first and say YOU pulled your gun first and they had to pull a knife to defend themself.

Let’s suppose you are going about your day outside your home. You are approached by a bad guy who suddenly pulls a knife and demands money from you. You draw your concealed carry handgun and aim it at the bad guy. Not expecting the victim to fight back, he panics and flees at the sight of your gun without you ever firing a shot. You wipe your brow and exclaim “Whew!” But is that the end of it? In many cases, no. Bad guys want the element of surprise on their side and get pissed off when the tables are turned.

Those bad guys who know the game, call the police and tell the police they were just minding their business when YOU suddenly pulled a gun on them. So, the police show up and question you. Then you tell them your side of the story. When they ask you “why didn’t you call the police”, you respond with “well, he didn’t actually attack me, so no crime was actually committed”. Bullshit!

Even if you are in an area with no cell service, always call 911, because your phone’s call log will let authorities know you attempted to call 911.

The bad guy instigating the events by pulling a knife IS ACTUALLY committing a crime, such as attempted murder, aggravated assault or the like. So, by not calling the police first, you flip the tables in the bad guy’s favor, because HE CALLED THE POLICE FIRST. You can be arrested instead of the bad guy. The charges can be something along the lines of brandishing (if your state has a brandishing law) terroristic threats, or aggravated assault.

So, if you carry a gun, also carry a cell phone. Should an incident similar to this happen, IMMEDIATELY CALL THE POLICE. By you calling first, you become the complainant. The 911 call will be logged with a date, time and location (nearest cell tower). In these kinds of incidences, there are two types of people. Either you are the victim or you are the suspect. By calling 911 first, you automatically become the victim, because you will be on record as being able to present your side of the story first.

But what if you are in an area with no cell towers nearby and your call cannot go through? Should you hold off attempting to call 911? Absolutely not. Call anyway. Your phone’s call log will indicate, with a date and time stamp that you attempted to call 911. Now if the bad guy calls after that time and date stamp, you give your defense attorney something to work with.

It should be automatic when you grab your personal items before walking out the door: Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Handgun? Check. Cell phone? Check. If you carry your handgun, ALWAYS carry your cell phone.

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Transferring A Gun

From time to time I get asked about Pennsylvania’s laws on transferring a firearm from one party to another. Pennsylvania is pretty straight-forward when it comes to transferring firearms ownership. But there are a few simple laws to abide by.

First, people under the age of 21 cannot buy a pistol or revolver. However, they can be gifted a pistol or revolver, say from the estate of a grandparent, or as a birthday present.

Second, people under the age of 18 cannot buy a long gun…rifle or shotgun. However, they can be gifted or bequeathed a long gun.

Third, pistol and revolver transfers require a background check to be conducted on the buyer/transferee. This can be done one of two ways. The first way is to find an FFL convenient to both parties, assuming the FFL does firearms transfers. Both parties will need a photo ID, and the FFL will perform the background check to make sure the buyer/transferee is not a prohibited person (convicted felon or nutjob). The second way is to go to the local county sheriff’s office and have the sheriff do the background check and the transfer. If one party is on the eastern part of the state and the other party is on the western part, the seller can either drive the firearm to an FFL or sheriff near the buyer, or the seller can find a local FFL who will ship the firearm to an FFL near the buyer. Only FFLs can have accounts with and use UPS, USPS or FedEx, if the purpose of using them is to transfer a firearm. If you simply want to ship your firearm to a gunsmith for repair, you can use USPS, because formal title is not changing hands. So the local FFL will ship the firearm across the state to another FFL, from which the background check will then be conducted on the transferee. Now, in the case of Dakota Firearms, if you want to sell or give your firearms to someone else, we require you to produce ownership papers. That can be a bill of sale, a copy of an ATF Form 4473, or something containing the gun’s serial number which proves you own it. If you do not have such documents, in the “FFL Services” menu of this website is an affidavit we require you to download and complete stating that you are the owner of the firearm. No one from Dakota Firearms is going to the gray bar hotel for dealing in stolen guns. We reserve the right to stop any transfer which seems suspect.

Fourth, long guns, both rifles and shotguns, are exempt from this formal transfer process. So the seller/transferor can simply sell or give the long gun to the buyer/transferee, assuming the buyer/transferee is not a prohibited person. But if the seller/transferor is unsure of the buyer/transferee’s background, then do the transfer formally with a background check. If the firearm is transferred to a prohibited person, that is considered a straw purchase and that is illegal.

Fifth, immediate family members are exempt from this formality, regardless of the firearm. So if the transferee is grandparent, parent, child, grandchild or spouse of the transferor, the transferor can simply give the firearm to the transferee. Again, the transferee needs to be aware as to whether or not the transferee is a prohibited person. If that is the case, this transferring arrangement is considered a straw purchase, and that is illegal.

Sixth, if the buyer/transferee lives in a state other than Pennsylvania, the entire transaction must involve FFLs, regardless whether the firearm is a pistol, revolver or long gun. The selling/transferring party must find a local FFL who does transfers, to have them package and ship the firearm being sold/transferred. The shipping FFL will ship the firearm to an FFL in the buyer/transferee’s state, presumably close to the buyer/transferee. The receiving FFL will then contact the buyer/transferee and conduct a background check on the buyer/transferee. The receiving party will have to abide by the laws of the state to which the firearm is shipped.

Now, what happens when a divorce is involved? It depends on the timing of the divorce. If the gun is being transferred while the marriage is still intact, then the spousal exemption, above, applies. If the gun is being transferred as part of the divorce settlement, then the gun and it’s serial number should be included in the settlement paperwork, as proof that one party did not steal the firearm from the other party. If the divorce is final and a transfer is then attempted, the spousal exemption will not apply. In that case, the two parties must follow the rules above, depending on whether the gun is a pistol, revolver or long gun. So if the gun is a pistol or revolver, then both, now divorced, parties must go to an FFL and the transferee must have a background check conducted.

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The Truth About “Aggravated Assault”

In the past, attackers were usually charged with Murder if the victim died, or Attempted Murder if they survived. For whatever reason, the practice of charging attackers with either of these felonies has largely been abandoned. In fact, the FBI Uniform Crime Report no longer even has an entry for Attempted Murder. Now, if the victim dies, the charge is Murder, but if they survive it is Aggravated Assault.

Aggravated Assault simply means the victim survived an attack in which the attacker tried to kill the victim but was inept. The FBI definition of Aggravated Assault is “an unlawful attack involving a weapon or other means likely to cause death or great bodily injury”. In other words, an attacker tried to kill you, but you survived.

The murder rate in the U.S. is about 15,000 murders each year. One can conclude from that low number relative to the U.S. population of about 330 million that the odds of needing a gun are very low. This is until you take into consideration the 1,000,000 Aggravated Assaults! So that is 1 million ATTEMPTS to unlawfully kill a victim.

So why is the murder rate relatively low? It’s certainly not for the lack of trying? It’s because of modern trauma care. Modern trauma care in big cities is phenomenal. The VAST majority of people shot, stabbed or bludgeoned by criminals don’t die from their injuries. So the charges are not Murder, but Aggravated Assaults.

But the bottom line for the reclassification of surviving from Attempted Murder to Aggravated Assault is that the victim survives, but may be maimed, blind, lose a limb, be paralyzed, require multiple corrective surgeries, lose the ability to work, and other tragic consequences. But since they did not die, the crime is treated as a lesser crime than Attempted Murder.

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Red Flag Laws

You dated someone five years ago. The relationship ended on a sour note, and you have not had any contact since then. Then one day, you get a knock on the door. It’s the police. They’ve come to confiscate your guns. How could this be? You are a law-abiding gun owner. You haven’t even gotten so much as a speeding ticket in years. Why are the police at your door to confiscate your guns?

You can thank your state’s “Red Flag Laws“. But what are red flag laws and why are they unconstitutional? Red Flag Laws is the common name for “Extreme Temporary Protective Orders”. These orders are policies being put in place by liberal, gun-fearing politicians in an attempt to quell gun violence.

But why are they unconstitutional? Because they completely violate victims right to Due Process. Your ex, remember the one you dumped five years ago, couldn’t handle the breakup and decided to conjure up a vendetta against you by contacting the authorities and told them you have guns and you made one or more threats to commit mass murder. No justification. Just a report to the authorities without the need to prove the accusations against you.

‘Nuff Said

So the accuser notifies the police. The police then contact the prosecutor, who then reaches out to a judge. If the judge signs off on the “order”. the brown-shirts…er…police then show up at your house demanding you turn over your guns. And…this is all done in secret.

These laws are being written so that the police use what is called a “no knock” warrant to search your home for the guns with you are allegedly going to commit mass murder. In other words, they break down your door. These laws are some of the most dangerous ever put forth by the anti-gun crowd, and must be fought at every level. Whether you intended to go through with the trumped up allegations, you and every other American, has the right to due process. With every other law, burden of proof lies with the prosecution that you committed a crime. But with Red Flag Laws, since no crime has been committed, the burden of proof falls on you that you are not a menace to society.

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PA Gun Crimes

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

As part of our ongoing mission, Dakota Firearms Training Academy wants visitors to this site to be the BEST trained, BEST educated law-biding gun owners. If you use your gun in the commission of a crime, below is the list of crimes generally associated with gun usage, and what prosecutors may possibly charge you with. Keep in mind that if you shoot someone in defense of yourself or others that your legal justification for doing so is not a legal “get out of jail free” card. It is not the absence of being charged. Rather it is a defense to being charged. So, if you are ever charged with one of the crimes listed below, secure the services of the best gun and/or self-defense lawyer you can, as your life may depend on it. Do not get Cousin Vinny. Do not get an ambulance chaser. Do not get a family member who will take your case pro bono unless they are experts in gun or self-defense law.

The severity of the possible punishment of the crime determines whether or not you lose your right to carry or possess firearms FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. For example, if you are found guilty of a misdemeanor and your sentence is only 6 months, but the crime for which you were found guilty carries a maximum punishment more than 2 years, you will lose your right to carry or possess firearms for the rest of your life.

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Bad Fido, Bad Dog!

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

Are you legally able to shoot an attacking dog? In Pennsylvania, a person may kill a dog that is in the act of pursuing, wounding, or killing any domestic animal; wounding or killing other dogs, cats or household pets; or pursuing, wounding or attacking human beings, whether or not the dog bears a license tag. A person is not civilly liable for damages for such a killing. 3 P.S. sections 459; 501; 531; and 532.

Therefore, if you walk your own dog through your own neighborhood, walk past a neighbor’s house with an aggressive dog, and this dog terrorizes you from inside the neighbor’s fenced in yard (including those underground Invisible Fences), feel free to conceal carry while walking your own dog. If the neighbor’s dog ever gets out of the fence, and begins to attack you or your dog, you have the legal right to shoot the attacking dog. And legally, you will not be held civilly liable for putting down the attacking dog. So the neighbors cannot sue you for putting down their expensive breed.

Then contact your attorney. See if you have a claim against the irresponsible home owner.

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Alcohol And Guns

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

From time to time, I am asked two questions regarding alcohol and guns.

“In Pennsylvania, can I carry concealed into a bar or other establishment which serves alcohol?”

My answer is: “Let’s meet at the bar. You buy the drinks. I’ll bring my gun. And we’ll discuss it.” Pennsylvania has no law against it. So yes, you can carry concealed into an establishment which serves alcohol.

“Can I drink alcohol while carrying concealed?”

You can, but I would recommend against it. When you are carrying concealed, any incident in which you need to use your firearm in self-defense will be scrutinized heavily by the justice system. If the incident happened in or near a bar, expect law enforcement to conduct a breathalyzer test on you. As CCW permit holders, we are viewed by the courts to have a “higher burden of care”. What this means is that if we are carrying concealed, we need to be more vigilant in and with our actions and how we handle ourselves in public. We are viewed as to get the proper training with our gun, have the proper skills with our gun, and know the proper gun laws. So, as a practical matter, if I am carrying concealed, I would not drink any alcohol.

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Texas 51 Law

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

I recently hosted a U.S. Law Shield seminar in which the topic was “Interstate Transportation of Firearms”. The guest speaker was U.S. Law Shield’s primary program attorney for Pennsylvania. Law-abiding Pennsylvania gun owners will be hard pressed to find a better, more knowledgeable gun law attorney. As he is the program attorney, he has the cell phone numbers of every one of U.S. Law Shield’s state attorneys.

A question was presented by an attendee asking if there is any Pennsylvania law which prohibits concealed carry inside any establishment which serves alcohol. Fortunately, for Pennsylvania, no such law exists. This does not mean you can walk into a Pennsylvania bar while conceal carrying, get plastered, and start acting like Yosemite Sam.

However, this freedom Pennsylvanian’s have with regards to alcohol and guns is not the case in every state. Texas, for example, has a law on their books which states that if a business derives more than 51% of its annual revenues from alcohol sales, concealed carry is prohibited in those establishments. Examples of these types of establishments are easy to figure out. It is your run-of-the-mill bar, who may serve only munchies.

A sign, similar to this, must be posted in both English and Spanish, plainly visible for all businesses which earn more than 51% of its revenue from alcohol.

But what if the establishment is your neighborhood bar and grill, such as an Applebee’s, a Chili’s, or a TGIFriday’s, where the establishment makes money from both alcohol and food. Then the 51% distinction is not so clear cut. Now, you, as a law-abiding gun owner could, theoretically, go into one of these establishments, shake down the pimply-faced teenage manager and ask him to see the restaurant’s latest IRS 1040 tax return or demand to immediately see their CPA, but that probably will not get you very far.

So how is that distinction made known, so gun owners know whether or not they can carry into the establishment? Texas law states that any business which derives more than 51% of its revenues from the sale of alcohol must post a sign, written in both English and Spanish, in a door or window, plainly visible to patrons. Our program attorney euphemistically, called this the “Texas 51 Law“.

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Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

On July 20, 2022 two ATF agents and a Delaware State Trooper showed up at the front door of a Delaware man with the intent of conducting a surprise inspection of the homeowner’s firearms. The homeowner’s Ring doorbell camera captured the entire event. Click on the video link below to watch the incident unfold.

I am pissed off and you should be too that this was allowed to occur. Were the agents belligerent to the homeowner? No. They were cordial to the homeowner. Were they intimidating to the homeowner? Hell yes! All three were wearing body armor and sidearms. The primary agent conversed with the homeowner, while the other agent and state trooper stayed back and kept their distance.

(A sidebar to this incident is that a Washington Post reporter attempted to interview the ATF district office and the Delaware State Police headquarters and neither group provided comment.)

Here is where I have an issue with what they did.

First, they show up unannounced. Fine. Not one, but three agents, showed up unannounced wearing body armor and sidearms. What is the probability that knocking unannounced will have the homeowner answer the door with a personal firearm in his hand for which they need body armor protection? Pretty low. Why three agents? If you are only conducting a cordial conversation, why three agents? Wouldn’t one agent have sufficed? This is purely for intimidation. In fact, in a post-incident interview, the homeowner said he felt threatened and did not know what do to. (More on that later.)

Second, they have a list of his guns on a piece of paper, seven guns total. Where did they get that list? There is not supposed to be a government gun list. It is true that if multiple guns are purchased at one time, which is considered within a single 24-hour period, that does trigger additional paperwork, known as Form 3310, for FFLs (like me). A copy of Form 3310 must be sent to the ATF and another copy must be sent to law enforcement, whoever has law enforcement jurisdiction where the purchaser lives. But did this homeowner purchase all seven guns at one time? Probably not, because then he would have to answer to an even more intimating governing body than the ATF…his wife!

Third, they are conducting a search for straw purchases, a purchase of a firearm by someone legally entitled to purchase firearms for someone who is not legally entitled to purchase firearms. So, what if he doesn’t have all seven guns in his home at that moment of the surprise inspection? What if one of the guns is stowed on his boat moored in a slip at one of Delaware’s many beach towns? What if one of his guns is in his wife’s purse and she is running an errand? The point is that by pointing to guns listed on a sheet of paper is not going to determine if this homeowner was a straw purchaser. But in addition to that, straw purchases are more prevalent in the hood, where higher percentages of citizens live who are not legally entitled to own guns. Don’t give me any of that “I’m being racist shit”! Facts are facts! Take a look at the neighborhood background of this video. Does it look like this guy lives in the hood? No, he lives in what appears to be a nice suburban neighborhood.

Fourth, and most importantly, they completely violated his 4th Amendment rights to no unreasonable search and seizures by asking if they can see his gun. They showed up unannounced, wearing sidearms and body armor WITHOUT a warrant. If they were really seeking out straw purchases, they would have showed up with a warrant. Instead, they attempted casual conversation in an attempt to get him to disclose information about his guns without triggering 4th Amendment protections and their need for a warrant. He was too intimidated to even think of calling his attorney. He felt threatened. Some legal eagle out there may argue that no 4th Amendment violation occurred because the primary agent and the homeowner were having a casual conversation, known as a “knock and talk”, and as such the homeowner was not afforded any 4th Amendment protection. I say bullshit! If three agents wearing sidearms and body armor knocked on your door, would you believe that that the ensuing conversation is going to be just casual? No. If three agents show up at my door wearing body armor and sidearms, I expect the conversation to be hostile and for me to be placed in handcuffs the moment I set foot out the door. Had he known the law, he would have told them to fuck off and come back with a warrant.

And this brings me to the point about this blog. Everyday, law-abiding gun owners get taken to the proverbial cleaners by the justice system, particularly with the Biden administration’s pit bulls in the DOJ, FBI and ATF. The justice system takes advantage of these people because they do not know the law and their rights. If you are a gun owner, You NEED to know your rights, and execute those rights when appropriate. So, here are the Amendments which more aptly benefit law-abiding gun owners:

4th Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The Fourth Amendment, however, is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law. The Fourth Amendment indicates a warrant is needed to search persons and property. These three agents had no probable cause or they would have had a warrant. They only had serial numbers of seven guns on a piece of paper.

5th Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings. In criminal cases (which is how you will be charged if you use your gun in self-defense), the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury, forbids “double jeopardy” and protects against self-incrimination. This is your right to “SHUT UP”! So do so. If you are ever arrested for using your gun in self-defense, STFU! and let your attorney do your talking for you. In this situation and countless like it, agents and LEOs deliberately speak casually so as not to trigger a defendant’s defense mechanism of self-incrimination. This primary agent spoke conversationally and even suggested they have a job to do so as to get the homeowner to offer up information.

6th Amendment

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, the right to face your accusers, and the nature of the charges and evidence against you. This is your right to lawyer up! Learn it and do so. If you are ever arrested for using your gun in self-defense, tell the investigators that you want to cooperate fully but not without an attorney. In other words…lawyer up.

So, bottom line, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS and use them! Stop burying your head in the sand. Remember, if you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.


Can I Modify My CCW?

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

So, you want to modify your gun. Can you do it? Yes. Should you do it? It depends. If you have the skills and the tools, yes, you can modify your gun. Go to town! Have fun.

But should you modify your gun? It depends on what modifications you want to make. If this is your EDC, the type of modification you want to do may impact whether or not an overzealous liberal prosecutor can use that modification against you in court, if you used your EDC in self-defense.

What prosecutors are looking for is anything and everything they can find to make you look bad. Their job is to get convictions. If they can introduce the slightest piece of evidence to create doubt in the minds of the jury that you were not acting purely in self-defense, they may do so. This includes modifications to your EDC.

So what kind of modifications are we talking about? Modifications generally fall into two categories with respect to the law:

  • Modifications that suggest a state of mind inconsistent with lawful self-defense.
  • Modifications that suggest the shooting might have been accidental/negligent rather than intentional.
Testing the trigger pull weight is not rocket science. Simply stick one of these trigger scales in front of the trigger and pull backwards. The scale measures how much weight is needed until the trigger breaks.

Suggesting a state of mind inconsistent with lawful self-defense means that you, the law abiding gun owner, had an ulterior motive, and that your intentions for concealed carry was not purely for self defense reasons. Example, adding a suppressor to your EDC. If your reasons for concealed carry was pure, why would you need a suppressor? A prosecutor can argue that because you wanted to suppress the muzzle bang, you were on the offensive rather than on the defensive, because gun owners with a suppressed gun WANT the bang to be muffled. Generally only bad guys want to muffle the muzzle bang. However, the argument changes if the gun to which you are adding a suppressor is not your EDC, but rather for home defense only. The argument here can be that you did not want to make your family members deaf inside your home. Another example, which is used frequently by prosecutors as to your state of mind is to alter the trigger of your EDC. If the factory trigger pull weight is 5.5 pounds, and you install an aftermarket trigger kit to reduce the trigger pull down to 3.5 pounds, a prosecutor may argue that the trigger weight reduction allowed you to be more aggressive because the amount of force necessary to pull the trigger was less, allowing you to shoot quicker.

Prosecutors will bring in witnesses who are experts in your particular EDC model. They will do all sorts of gun and ballistics tests to determine if the gun was modified.

Patricia McCloskey waving her inoperable hand gun

(As a sidebar, do you remember the incident in June 2020 involving the McCloskeys in St. Louis, the couple who stood on their front lawn and waved guns around as protestors marched outside their property? Did you know the wife’s small handgun was not functional at the time she waved it around? They deliberately disabled the firing pin so it could not fire. The crime lab discovered the disabled firing pin and Assistant Circuit Attorney Chris Hinckley ordered his crime lab to put her gun back together correctly, thus making it functional. This tampering with evidence is what caused the Missouri attorney general to dismiss the case. Had he not done so, the Missouri governor vowed to immediately grant the McCloskeys a pardon. This sidebar is being presented here to point out that over zealous prosecutors will stop at nothing to get a conviction if they can legally get away with it.)

A threaded barrel serves only one purpose…to mount a suppressor. There is no need for an EDC to have a threaded barrel if you want to stay in front of the law.

Suggesting negligence with lawful self-defense means that you, the law abiding gun owner had a sound state of mind, but was more negligent than anything else. The modification which comes to mind here is removing the manual safety from your EDC. Here’s where the negligence part comes into play. If you disengage the manual safety of your gun, you are going to have a difficult time convincing a jury that you knew more about your gun’s safety mechanisms than the engineers at the gun manufacturer.

From a legal perspective of not helping your case, below are four (4) things you should never do to or with your EDC gun. We already discussed the first two.

Extended magazines can show aggression to a prosecutor. If this is your EDC, why in the world do you need a 30-round magazine?
  • Reduce the trigger pull weight
  • Disable the manual safety
  • Use gun models with threaded barrels
  • Use extended magazines

A threaded barrel serves one purpose and one purpose only…to screw a suppressor onto the muzzle of a gun. A prosecutor can argue that both using threaded barrels and extended magazines make your state of mind one more aligned with offensive aggression than purely self-defense.

So, if you want to install beautiful rosewood grips, go for it! If you want to install better sights, either a red dot or luminescence optics, have at it! If you want to add a laser, knock yourself out! If you want to make changes to your competition, range or hunting gun, go for it! Just don’t use any of those models for concealed carry self defense. Just ask yourself the following question: can this modification I am about to do be used against me in court?

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Color Of Guns

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

If you are like me, after reading this blog title, you may want to begin singing It’s In The Way That You Use It from Eric Clapton’s hit song on the soundtrack of the 1986 movie The Color Of Money. But seriously, this article is about adding color to guns. Many people are either buying guns from their retailer which are already colored from the factory, or they are doing cosmetic work to their gun after purchase, such as cerakoting.

But from a legal perspective of a self-defensive shooting scenario involving a colored gun, should you have color in your gun? Does it give you a leg up or not? The answer is…it depends.

There a two legal schools of thought on this subject. One thought is that a good defense attorney will hold up the colored gun used in the shooting as evidence for the jury to see and say to the jury “The defendant is not a bad person. How many bad people do you know who carry a turquoise blue gun?” The other thought is that prosecutor will hold up the same gun for the jury and say to the jury “The defendant was inexperienced, using this cheap turquoise blue gun, and hastily shot the victim.”

Is that a legitimate prosecutorial argument? Maybe. Maybe not. Serving on a jury means you are engaging in a popularity contest regarding the defendant. Having served on two juries myself, when the trial begins, each jury member has a preconceived notion of the defendant. That preconceived notion is either “I like you” or “I don’t like you”. Then, as the trial progresses, the prosecution tries to get the jury members to conceive of the defendant as “I don’t like you” and gain a conviction, while the defense tries to get the jury members to conceive of the defendant as “I like you” and gain an acquittal.

So the prosecution will hold up the turquoise blue gun to the jury as evidence. They will try to show the defendant was inexperienced handling firearms, purchasing and carrying a cheap turquoise blue gun. The prosecution does not have to prove inexperience by the defendant. Jurors will decide for themselves if the color of the gun helps the prosecution. The general consensus is or the prosecutor may point out that expensive guns are not produced in colors beyond black, stainless steel or desert tan, or that owners of these expensive guns will not add bling to the gun…as concealed carry guns.

The defense will also hold up the same turquoise blue gun to the jury, and will attempt to convince the jury the defendant was an experienced shooter, despite the gun color. The defense may bring in one or more expert witnesses who will corroborate the defendant’s level of experience. But the bottom line is that this becomes more work and more money for the defense.

So, if you like colored guns, get one. Then practice, practice, practice, so that you become experienced in shooting that particular gun.

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Leaving The Scene

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

We all know that leaving the scene of a car accident, is itself, a crime. But what about leaving the scene of a self-defense shooting? is that a crime?

Most people involved in a self-defense shooting hang around the scene where the shooting just took place. Why? Because most people who were defending their life or the lives of loved ones from a bad guy are attempting to prove their innocence to the police. They figure that if they can show what and where things happened, the police will see that they are the innocent victim. But guess what? Police don’t care if you are innocent or not. All day long they hear that people are innocent. Their job is to secure the scene and gather evidence, not determine someone’s guilt or innocence. That job falls onto a jury.

Leaving the scene of a car accident is dramatically different than leaving the scene of a shooting. In an auto accident, you are not in a position to have to defend your life. On the other hand, if you are attacked by a bad guy, you have an ethical and moral imperative to defend your life…thanks to the 2nd Amendment. In a defensive gun use situation, the state has to prove its case that you were not justified in the use of deadly force against an aggressor. This means they must gather evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt, to a jury, that you exercised deadly force against another person when your life was not threatened or at risk.

So you leave the scene to an area which poses less risk. Many retreating law abiding gun owners who defended themselves retreat to a safe area…inside a well lit convenience store, behind a car, your home or the home of a buddy, until the police arrive. A benefit of seeking refuge inside a convenience store is that there may be witnesses who can vouch of your presence. This act is not ‘leaving the scene of a crime’. This is the act of a person, scared for his/her life, retreating to a place he/she has reason to believe poses little risk.

A good defense attorney will argue that because you were in fear of your life, you needed to leave the immediate scene…to take cover…to collect yourself…to get away from the bad guy’s partner.

So, as soon as you compose yourself, immediately call your attorney and listen to your attorney’s advice.

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Gun Owners Win!

On Thursday, June 23, 2022, the United States Supreme Court, handed down its decision by a 6-3 vote which was looooong overdue on the constitutionality of gun control laws. Justice Clarence Thomas gave the majority opinion. This decision blows gun control laws out of the water. He basically said that individuals have the right to defend themselves…which is the core tenet of the Second Amendment.

The Court’s decision will now change the test that lower courts will have to use when analyzing the constitutionality of recent existing regulations or pending new gun regulations. Only firearm regulations that are “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition” comply with Second Amendment’s protections, he wrote, in an assertion that puts in jeopardy any restriction that does not have a historical parallel to the nation’s founding.

So what does this mean in layman’s terms? It means for a gun control law to be constitutional, the law will have to be consistent with how firearms were historically regulated. This decision will spell trouble for those states which enact new controlling laws, because, by its nature, the new law does not have any historical tradition. In other words, if a new law has no bearing on the country’s previous history of gun traditions, it will be ruled unconstitutional.

Here is an example. Let’s suppose that in the early days of our country, say 1840, adults between 18 and 21 were not prohibited from owning guns. So, based on this decision, newer gun laws prohibiting 18 to 21 year olds from owning guns will now be challenged as unconstitutional, because these new “age” restricting gun laws are not how this country historically regulated guns. The only way a new “age” restriction control can be constitutional is if a state had an age restriction law on its books and that the state historically operated based on that regulation of restricting young adults from owning guns.

This new ruling may challenge high profile gun cases, such as Commiefornia’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons” (hic), and the ATF’s ban on bump stocks. The high court may hear these cases or it may send them back to the lower courts with instructions these laws are reexamined under Thursday’s ruling.

The other impact this decision may have is to reduce these knee-jerk, thoughtless reactions of attempting to stop violent massacres, particularly this new massive gun control bill currently making its way through Congress. Because, up until the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, we did not have any high profile massacres. And as such, the country historically did not have laws on the books to deal with mentally unstable madmen.

Personally, I expect gun advocacy groups to challenge existing gun laws on the basis of this new ruling. I expect a flood of emails from gun advocacy groups pitching for donations to challenge these laws in court.

Gun Owners Win! Read More »

Federal Gun Laws

The following is a list of federal places for which gun laws apply:

Federal Buildings – Any building owned, leased or rented by the Federal Government. This includes buildings within National Forests which are property of the federal government. This also includes parking lots adjacent to, or part of, the facility if the entity owns or has control over the parking lot, and the parking lot is posted with “No Firearms” signs. The lot has to be posted under Federal law if they do not wish to have firearms present.

Federal Courthouses – All federal courthouses are off limits for carrying. This also includes parking lots adjacent to, or part of, the facility if the entity owns or has control over the parking lot, and the parking lot is posted with “No Firearms” signs. The lot has to be posted under Federal law if they do not wish to have firearms present. So, if you receive a jury summons for a Federal trial, leave your firearm at home.

National Forests – There is NO law prohibiting carry in national forests. However, carry is NOT permitted in buildings within national forests which are property of the Federal government. States control the carrying of firearms in national forests within their state. So it is perfectly legal to carry in the Allegheny National Forest in north central Pennsylvania. You just cannot carry into Federally controlled park buildings.

National Parks – There is NO law prohibiting carry in national parks. However, carry is NOT permitted inside ranger stations or visitor centers of these parks. States control the carrying of firearms of national parks within their state. So it is perfectly legal to carry in Jellystone to visit Yogi and Boo-Boo. You just cannot carry into the ranger station to say hello to Ranger Smith.

Sterile Areas of Airports – The sterile area of an airport is anything behind the TSA checkpoints. Individuals may not have a weapon on or about their person or accessible property (e.g. suitcase) when entering the sterile area of an airport or when attempting to board or onboard an aircraft for which screening is conducted. This means if you accompany a traveler to the ticketing area prior to departure or baggage claim area after arrival, you can carry. But for departures, you must give them a kiss goodbye and not follow them as they approach the TSA baggage check area.

Federal Prisons – All Federal prisons are off limits, including the Federal country club prisons. This also includes parking lots adjacent to, or part of, the facility if the entity owns or has control over the parking lot, and the parking lot is posted with “No Firearms” signs. The lot has to be posted under Federal law if they do not wish to have firearms present.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – The Corps builds and runs flood control and navigation dams. The Corps has jurisdiction over the dam site and usually all waters backed up by the dam (e.g. the lake behind the dam). It is illegal to carry anywhere on Corps property unless written permission has been obtained from the District Commander. Firearms can be unloaded and secured in a vehicle while on Corps property.

National Cemeteries – It is illegal to carry on the grounds of national cemeteries, presumably out of respect for the heroes interred there. This also includes parking lots adjacent to, or part of, the facility if the federal government owns or has control over the parking lot, and the parking lot is posted with “No Firearms” signs. The lot has to be posted under Federal law if they do not wish to have firearms present.

Military Bases – All military bases are Federal property. Each base may have slightly different policies, however, visitors who arrive at a military base with firearm(s) must leave them with the guards at the gate. If the base does not have storage capabilities at the gate or the armory, you could be turned away. The only people who can carry guns around the base, concealed or otherwise, are on-duty military police, who handle routine security. They then have to return their firearms to the armory when their shifts are over. There are exceptions for local or state police officers who come to the base on official business. The base commander can make other exceptions, for which each base’s individual rules must be checked. There is one exception. Active duty military police, criminal investigators, and Marine Corps law enforcement program police officers may conceal carry their personally owned weapons while off-duty on base as long as they comply with the 2016 DoD Directive, titled “Arming and the Use of Force”.

Rented Offices – Any part of any building that the federal government has rented for office space or a federal workforce, etc., just their offices or the part of the building the federal government has control over is off limits. You can carry in the rest of the building if state or local law allows. So if the federal government rents the entire third floor of a four story office building, you can carry on floors one, two and four. Floor three is off limits.

Post Offices – Postal regulations prohibit the possession of firearms in Post Office buildings, parking lots, or any property owned by the Post Office. So if you need stamps, leave the gun at home. Or if you absolutely want to carry, then use “” or buy the stamps in a grocery store.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM…no, not the terrorist group, the government group) – On most BLM lands, if you can legally carry in the state the BLM land is in, you can carry on BLM lands. If it is not legal to carry on those BLM lands, the BLM will have the lands posted to that effect. Any building on BLM lands operated by the Federal government is considered a Federal property and carrying is not allowed. The exceptions where BLM prohibits firearms are the San Pedro Riparian Zone in Arizona, the Wallace Conservation Forest in Idaho, and Red Rock National Conservation Area in Nevada.

Indian Reservations – Carry on Indian Reservations is controlled by Tribal Law. Visitors to those reservations must check with each tribe before carrying on the property. Some Indian tribes consider Federal and State highways running through their property as being under their control. This should also be verified with the Tribe. So while this is not absolute, should you see yourself driving on federal or state highways through Indian reservations, contact the tribe beforehand or lock your firearms in the trunk until you are through the reservation.

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Pennsylvania Gun Laws

The following is a list of places within Pennsylvania for which gun laws apply:

Court Facilities – Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 913 an individual may not carry a firearm in a court facility. A court facility is defined as “The courtroom of a court of record; a courtroom of a community court; the courtroom of a magisterial district judge; a courtroom of the Philadelphia Municipal Court; a courtroom of the Pittsburgh Magistrates Court; a courtroom of the Traffic Court of Philadelphia; judge’s chambers; witness rooms; jury deliberation rooms; attorney conference rooms; prisoner holding cells; offices of court clerks, the district attorney, the sheriff and probation and parole officers; and any adjoining corridors.” However, if conspicuous notice of this prohibition is not placed at the entrance of the court facility or the person does not have actual knowledge of the prohibition, that person cannot be charged with violating the law. Lastly, all court facilities must make lockers available for the checking of firearms and other dangerous items.

Elementary and Secondary Schools (both public and private) – Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 912, an individual is prohibited from carrying on schools grounds and in school buildings. However, there is a defense to prosecution under this section of, “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 the courts have not weighed in on whether a valid LTCF is a lawful purpose.

Detention Facilities, Correctional Institutes, or Mental Hospitals – Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 5122 and 61 Pa.C.S. 5902,  an individual cannot bring a weapon into a Detention Facility, Correctional Institute, or Mental Hospital.

Private Property – Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 3503, where the individual is notified, either orally or in writing, that he/she is not permitted on the property with a firearm.

Certain State Buildings – See, 49 Pa. Code 61.3.

Loaded Long Gun in a Vehicle – Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6106.1, it is unlawful to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle in one’s vehicle.

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Guns & Vehicles In PA

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. This article is from a blog from the law offices of the McShane Firm. Do not construe this as actual legal advice. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

Please note that in 18 Pa.C.S §§6102 and 6106, once a handgun or “firearm”, is placed into a car, then these rules apply, even if it remains in plain view at all times. This chart only applies to Pennsylvania law regarding travel within Pennsylvania.

* Or an equivalent concealed carry permit issued by a reciprocating state as recognized by the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

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The Tueller Principle

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

This is being included here under the Gun Law blog topics because, in the minds of some, this is considered a law. It is not. Commonly known as the “21 foot rule”, this principle or rule was conjured up in 1982 by Salt Lake City police sergeant Dennis Tueller (blog photo). He and some fellow officers were at the range one day and a rookie officer asked Tueller if he would be justified in shooting someone carrying a knife. That officer was basically asking Tueller “how close is too close?”

21-Foot Rule

So Tueller and some fellow officers conducted some experiments where the other officers pretended to be knife-wielding assailants. Test after test yielded roughly the same result. Officers could effectively draw, shoot and engage a target at roughly 1.5 to 2 seconds. If the assailant is rushing towards the officer, that is roughly 21 feet of distance which can be closed in 1.5 to 2 seconds.

He published his findings in a 1984 issue of SWAT Magazine, entitled “How Close Is Too Close”. Police departments all over the country have since been teaching this unofficial, undocumented, rule in their academies. Basically if an officer shoots an assailant from beyond 21 feet, they could be charged with murder, but if it is within 21 feet, they are justified…at least that is how many have come to interpret this “rule.”

1984 SWAT Magazine Article

Tueller argued that he never intended for his experiment to be incorporated into police training or to be used in courtrooms to justify shootings. Randy Shrewsberry, executive director of The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform told a Frontline reporter “It has no scientific basis at all. It was never published in any scientific journal…The main fault with the 21-foot rule is that it provides no nuance. That 21 feet is assuming the ground is flat. It is assuming the speed of the would-be attacker. It is assuming whether or not the officer has his gun holstered.” And it is possible that 21 feet isn’t enough.

Used to train LEOs

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the national nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum, helps advise police departments on best practices. He said his organization started recommending to departments in 2016 that they eliminate the 21-foot rule from their training. He said he got some push-back at first — “Old habits die hard,” he said — but more agencies have gotten on board in recent years. “It’s a simple, simplistic way of looking at a more complicated issue,” he said. “And it has unbelievably tragic consequences.”

And according to an excerpt from a Dave Dolbee blog posted on July 7, 2017 by U.S. Law Shield…”The first issue I have with the 21-Foot Rule is the belief that it is somehow rooted in police doctrine or a legal standard. Removing the number ’21’ and the word ‘rule’ would go a long way toward dispelling the myth. Tueller’s research did not culminate in a rule; you are not suddenly safer at 22 feet than you were at 20. It is important to distinguish that Tueller developed a drill, not a standard. Just as many firearm enthusiasts insist on the distinction between a ‘modern sporting rifle’ and an ‘assault rifle,’ ‘magazine’ versus a ‘clip,’ and a dozen other examples of firearms terminology we could come up with off the top of our heads, I believe we need to properly identify our subject as the ‘Tueller Drill’ and not the ’21-Foot Rule.’ This is not only factually true, it goes a long way toward setting the correct mindset of the civilian gun handler.”

What does all of this mean for us, the law abiding gun owner? It means that civilian self-defense training should not focus on teaching civilians to be cops or overemphasize instruction in matters of law enforcement. It means that if you are getting training and the instructor brings up the “21 foot rule” or the “Tueller Principle”, that it is an improperly stated measurement of a safe working distance from an attacker.

Enclosed in this post (below) are two videos which are shown during U.S. Law Shield’s seminar on “High Profile Gun Cases and Lessons Learned”. These are shown on what not to do and how the defendant, arrested for shooting someone, talked his way into a 20 year jail term. It is being included here because during the police interrogation, the defendant references “the 21 foot rule”, arguably in a losing attempt to justify his shooting. The first video sets the scene and is the shorter of the two videos at a little over 2 minutes. The second video is the interrogation in the police station. At about the 1:11:40 mark in the upper right is where he states the “21 foot rule”, which should NEVER be used as a self-defense claim by civilians. If you are involved in a self-defense shooting and raise “the 21 foot rule” or “the Tueller Principle” during the interrogation, expect expert witnesses schooled in the Tueller Principle to be brought into court to discredit your defense.

BTW, the lessons learned during the U.S. Law Shield’s seminar is that 1) expect everything to be on video, and 2) lawyer up and shut up! First, the store’s CCTV captured the entire incident, which Drejka was unaware. Second, without the benefit of an attorney present during interrogation, Drejka sang like a canary, which was used against him in court. Thus, he basically talked his way into a 20-year manslaughter charge, for which he was found guilty.

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