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When Church and State Collide: Can You Carry In a Pennsylvania Dual Purpose Facility?

The following is a video transcript.

Hello, I’m Gilbert Ambler, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield of Pennsylvania. Schools and churches often confuse people in Pennsylvania, for a variety of reasons. Often, churches have some school in or attached to them. Likewise, at times, schools sometimes allow churches to hold a service in an auditorium or similar space. Both situations present difficult questions, so we should start with a few basic premises.

FEDERAL GUN-FREE SCHOOL ZONES ACT

Guns are generally not allowed in public, private, or religious kindergarten through 12th grade school buildings or grounds in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, under Federal Law, firearms are generally restricted within 1,000 feet of a kindergarten through 12th grade school, unless the individual meets an exception in the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, such as possessing a valid license or permit to carry firearms issued by the state they are in. On the flip side, in Pennsylvania, unless otherwise restricted, you generally may carry a firearm in a church.

18 PA.C.S.A. 912

The most complicated questions arise in the case of commingling with public, private, or religious kindergarten through 12th grade schools allowing the church to use the property, or a church having its own private or religious kindergarten through 12th grade school on the grounds. In these difficult scenarios, the safest advice is not to possess firearms on any grounds that have a kindergarten through 12th grade school. In general, this does not include a church that solely has a Sunday school on its premises. It is worth noting that while 18 Pa.C.S.A. 912 contains the general prohibition on weapons, including firearms, on kindergarten through 12th grade school property or grounds, it also contains an exception for weapons possessed for any “other lawful purpose.”

Arguably, this may apply to someone carrying a firearm for self-defense. However, this is a largely untested area of law, and the consequence of a conviction for violating this law is a misdemeanor of the first degree. This is a serious crime, which is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and would permanently affect your Second Amendment rights. For these reasons, we urge extreme caution when it comes to carrying firearms on kindergarten through 12th grade school property.

For further questions on this subject, please contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.

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