Mixing Guns and Protests in Pennsylvania

U.S. LawShield of Pennsylvania Independent Program Attorney Justin McShane on protests and guns (transcript).

One of the hot-topic issues that we get on the non-emergency line has to do with gun rights and protesting. It’s not my job or my place in life or that of U.S. LawShield to tell you what you should protest for or against or whether or not you should protest at all.

That’s the beauty of the First Amendment, isn’t it?

It’s your choice and your decision. But what we can do is, we can tell you exactly

protests and guns justin jmcshane
Independent Program Attorney Justin McShane

what the law is so you don’t run afoul of it. It’s a little bit complex because we live in complex times. But what we need to do is start with the very basics.

Protests and Guns

In Pennsylvania, we basically have two areas. There’s Philadelphia and the rest of the state. Well, in Philadelphia we have special rules when it comes to open carry. One may only open carry if you have a license to carry a firearm.

Why is that? As we’ve talked about before in many different videos, it is our only city of the first class, which means it has over 1 million people. Everywhere else in the state, it’s open carry as a default. It’s not against the law to open carry an AR on a sling or to open carry a firearm on your side.

For example, it is necessary, if you decide to conceal carry a firearm, which is a modern-day pistol for our purposes, in order to conceal carry that you have to have the license to carry a firearm. And, also, if you’re going to and from a protest, you need a license to carry a firearm in order to put it inside your car, and especially in Philadelphia, as we already talked about.

So one of the reactions is we get a lot of “what if” questions, and this video is going to help make sure that we carry and cover as many of those “what if” scenarios [as possible]. We can have “what if” scenario discussions till the cows come home.

That’s one of the things we like to do is talk about gun rights.

One of the things that comes up is the idea of a federal reaction. If there was a decision that there was going to be some sort of federal reaction to a protest. Well there are some provisions, and I’m not someone who likes to throw out statute books and statute things. But I think it’s important for you to actually read the law so you can understand it. And the first one is in Title 18 U.S.C. 3056. The other one to take a look at is 18 U.S.C. 1752.

What that allows is allows for something called the National Special Security Event. We’ve had a couple of those, believe it or not, in Pennsylvania, and fairly recently. If you remember, the pope, the pontiff, he came into Philadelphia. Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service decided to set up an NSSE, as it’s called, and prohibited not only firearms at the event, but also balloons and hard coolers and a whole bunch of stuff in order to, ostensibly, keep it secure for the pope.

One of the things that is supposed to happen when we have these NSSE events is the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction, with the Secret Service, they’re supposed to look at criteria in order to see whether or not they can apply that.

The three criteria are pretty simple.

That’s the anticipated attendance by someone who is a U.S. high-level officer and/or foreign dignitary. That’s why when Trump, candidate Trump, visited the farm show complex, we couldn’t have firearms there. It had nothing to do with the candidacy or the candidate himself; it had to do with the Secret Service decision. And also when he was in Hershey post-presidency, that was another one that had to do with it. So the DHS and the Secret Service take a look at who’s going to be there.

The number two is the size of the event, how big the event is going to be.

And the third one is the quote unquote significance of the event.

And so that is a backdoor way, potentially, of having a federal response.

But one of the things you may, if you get your Google on, is to take a look at 42 U.S.C. 5207, which very blatantly says that even under states of emergency, like Hurricane Katrina, the government cannot, by law, confiscate firearms. So we have that kind of going on to keep in the background.

Another what if, if you will, is what if our governor, Tom Wolf here in Pennsylvania, decides in reaction to declare a state of emergency. He could certainly try to do that as the power of the executive. That could be challenged in court. But what happens in response to it—by the way, if you want to look up that statute it’s 18 P.S. 6107—and what it says in its important part, you should read the whole thing, is that there is no open carry on public streets or public property If the state of emergency is granted. So that general default shrinks down, unless you have an act of self-defense of yourself or others, or that you have a license to carry a firearm. So it’s another reason to get a license to carry a firearm, if you can.

Now this is something to just consider. You’re over 18. It’s the United States of America. You can do whatever you want, but when we take a look at events that have happened around the world and even here in the United States. Take a look at a popular nightclub. You can take a look at an open-air market, a fireworks show, airplanes, baggage claim, and probably worst of all, and the most despicable, at least in my mind, at a kids concert. What did they all have in common? And what are the things that we like to say as a gun owning community is that they happen in gun free zones, and that is generally, and specifically, very true.

But one of the other things you have in common is that there’s a conglomeration of a lot of people. There’s just a high concentration of people in a very compact area. You know what that sounds like? It sounds like a protest to me, as well, too. So it’s one of those things that you have to be very aware of is not just to all of these what ifs that we went through in the Pennsylvania law and federal response and open carry in states of emergency, and all of that’s good stuff, but that concentration of people. I’m not here to tell you what to do, who to protest for and against, or whether or not to protest at all. But it’s something that you should consider as well too. Because what we all want here at U.S. LawShield of Pennsylvania is for you to be safe and to be legal.

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