My favorite law from Pennsylvania

Less than a year ago I moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania. I spend quite a bit of time running down NC laws that I think are silly or just plain stupid, but I wouldn’t move back if you paid me. You NC natives may as well just start calling me a Damn Yankee, because the difference between a Yankee and a Damn Yankee is that the Damn Yankee stays. Actually, according to Days of Thunder (starring Tom Cruise), I’m not really a Yankee either. I was born and raised in California, and if you’re from the West, you ain’t really nothin’.

I’d like to tell you about my favorite law from Pennsylvania. It’s even better than the total lack of laws in PA relating to guns and alcohol. Yes, in PA, you can carry a gun and get totally drunk if you want. I recommend that you don’t drink around firearms, it’s as stupid as drinking and driving, but in PA it’s not illegal. Even better than that is the law in PA that requires all State level courts to provide lockers for all people who are carrying a gun.

(a)  Offense defined.–A person commits an offense if he:
(1)  knowingly possesses a firearm or other dangerous  weapon in a court facility or  knowingly causes a firearm or other dangerous weapon to be present in a court facility; or
(2)  knowingly possesses a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a court facility with the intent that the firearm or other dangerous weapon be used in the commission of a crime or knowingly causes a firearm or other dangerous weapon to be present in a court facility with the intent that the firearm or other dangerous weapon be used in the commission of a crime.
(e)  Facilities for checking firearms or other dangerous weapons.–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).

This is a great law, and the source of one of my funniest gun stories.

Once upon a time I was called for Jury Duty in Lehigh County, PA. For one reason or other I was in the Sheriff’s office the day before (I think I was working on getting my Utah License and needed fingerprints). On the way out of the court building I asked the Deputy Sheriff on guard at the metal detector what the process was for getting a firearm checked. I knew there was a law that said that they had to check my gun if I had one. The Deputy was adamant, leave it at home. I don’t take well to people telling me what to do, especially when they lack the legal and moral standing to offer me advice. This pissed me off. A pissed off Sean is a creative Sean.

Cops like to tell you what to do. I’m not sure if they become cops because they like to tell you what to do or if they like to tell you what to do because they are cops. Chicken and egg. Most cops are sophisticated enough to merely “suggest” a course of action, relying on your natural desire to comply with authority. They know that they cannot order you to do anything that violates your rights, but they aren’t going to stop you if you waive your rights either. Direct confrontation of a police officer usually ends in a pavement tasting contest, and he’s bringing friends. The best solution? Passive aggressive. Make the cop spell out exactly what he wants you to do. Twice or three times is better. Avoid a direct answer. Want to know more? Here’s what I did.

I presented myself to the courthouse security desk with the following items

•             1 Springfield XD .45 ACP Compact with 10 +1 Federal 230gr Hydrashok bullets
•             1 Spare 13 round magazine with same bullets
•             1 can Fox Labs Mean Green flavor Pepper Spray
•             1 Appalachian Trail folding knife

I was carrying my XD and mag in a SmartCarry holster, so it was completely concealed. I held out my PA License to Carry Firearms and waited for the young Deputy to acknowledge that he understood what I was trying to convey. I didn’t think it made a whole lot of sense to make a general announcement that “I have a gun.” Generally that sort of statement leads police to show you their guns. He took my card and showed it to the other Deputy, the one who told me to leave my gun at home. That Deputy gave me a dirty look and told my Deputy to take me upstairs to the Sheriff’s office. My Deputy dropped me off in the waiting area and wandered back into the back of the Sheriff’s office looking for someone who would check my firearm into the locker. Eventually he returned with an older Deputy Sergeant who was taken aback by the fact I was left sitting armed in the waiting area. I thought it was pretty funny. It was clear that the Deputy Sergeant thought that this was a waste of his time and I was not making him happy by insisting on carrying to jury duty. He escorted me off to the side office and said,

“Where is it?”

I pointed.

“Give it to me.”

“Can I clear it?”

“No.”

 I carefully handed him my loaded pistol and was treated to a show while he attempted to drop the magazine. The button was stiffer than he expected, and since he was unfamiliar with my pistol (they carry revolvers) he nearly dropped the mag when he finally got the mag release to work. Then he fumbled for a while trying to eject the round in the chamber. Again, not being familiar with it, he didn’t realize that his hand had to be on the grip safety to make the slide unlock. He did drop the round while he locked the slide to the rear. Then he put the pistol in his hand, middle finger through the trigger guard and cupped both hands to hold the spare round and the 10 round mag. Then he tried to walk away. I let him get a step or two and stopped him with,

“Do you want the spare magazine?”

“Yes!”

So I gave him that. The young Deputy behind me asked me where I thought I was going, Bagdad? I shrugged. Apparently 24 rounds of .45 ACP was excessive, in their opinion. I was just carrying the two mags that came with the gun. The Deputy Sergeant started to walk away again.

“How about the pepper spray…” big pause, “and the knife?”

“Yes!!”

I gave them to him as well. Picture in your mind this Sergeant, his hands overflowing with 1 pistol, two mags, a loose round, a keychain pepper spray, and a folding knife. He looks at me and tries the cop “suggestion”

“You are here for jury duty, right?”

“Yes”

“If you get called back tomorrow, do you think all of this hardware will be necessary?”

I saw the trap coming. Passive aggressive. Avoid the direct answer.

“Well, it’s what I carry every day.”

I could see that the poor man was defeated. His shoulders slumped and he tried to flee.

“I’d like a receipt please.”

If he could have run away with any dignity at all, he would have. He took a long time coming back, but when he returned, he had the most beautifully handwritten property receipt that I have ever seen. His penmanship teacher must have been very proud of him. All the items were carefully listed, including serial numbers. He would have had to take the pepper spray apart to get the info for the receipt. I thanked him and left, following the young Deputy downstairs to go back through security. The whole process, from the time I went through the door until the time I made it to the Jury room on the 6th floor was only 20 minutes.

I was not selected for jury duty. I am sure that my complete and utter contempt for the specimens of legal excellence that were on display in the persons of both prosecutor and defense counsel had something to do with why they dismissed me. That, and I am sure that the Deputy Sergeant called upstairs and told the lady to take me off the Jury list and NEVER call me back.

Leaving was an adventure as well. I got back to the Sheriff’s office after I was dismissed, probably just before lunch. A different Deputy took my receipt and delivered to me a plastic grocery bag filled with all my items. I was directed to place my unloaded pistol in my holster and carry the rest. I would be escorted to the door, 1 floor down.

“Can I load it here?”

“No, take it to your car.”

“You want me to walk across 3 city blocks in downtown Allentown with an unloaded pistol?”

“Then do it outside.”

 “Are you planning on standing next to me when I load my pistol on a busy downtown public sidewalk right in front of the County Courthouse? Because I don’t want to think how the city police will react when someone reports a man loading a gun right outside the courthouse. I might get shot by mistake.”

He saw the logic in my statement. On the way to the door he let me into one of the probation offices and told me to go ahead and load my pistol there. Then he escorted me to the door. I thanked him for his assistance and wandered off, probably into Sheriff’s office lore, a story to be told to new Deputies over beers after a long day guarding the courthouse.

Passive aggressive. Avoid the direct answer. Exercise your rights. If you don’t use them, you may as well not have them. Flex your Rights, you might say.

North Carolina bans firearms from State buildings and allows localities to ban them in their buildings as well. We should insist that if guns are banned, proper security must be in place, including both armed guards and metal detectors. No sense trying to pretend that crime works on the honor system. The only ones honoring the “No guns allowed” signs are you and me, the honest, decent citizens. The criminals are just going to walk on by the sign, secure in the knowledge that no one in those buildings can defend themselves. They should also require lockboxes for those of us who choose to carry defensive arms. Criminals don’t necessarily need to come into the building to get us. Some of them just wait in the parking lot. To them it’s like a buffet. Except the dishes come to them.

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