COULD HAVE FAR REACHING IMPLICATIONS
Many advocates for Americans’ right to keep and bear arms had reason to celebrate when they learned of a decision from Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Senior Judge Robert Wolfe on May 19. Judge Wolfe's decision in favor of plaintiff Stanley Switzer of Jefferson County, ruled that a security ordinance allowing for metal detectors placed in doorways to courthouses for conducting weapons searches conflicts with state law. Pennsylvania’s law says no county may regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms.
State law regulates firearms in courthouses, saying that gun possession in a court facility is illegal. However, those court facilities only include courtrooms, district attorneys’ offices and judges’ chambers – not the entire building. Also at issue was whether local ordinances could override state law.
Mr. Switzer’s attorney, William Strong, argued successfully that the Jefferson County ordinance prohibiting his client from carrying a legally registered handgun into other county offices was an unconstitutional prohibition of his client’s rights. Mr. Switzer, a Korean War veteran, possesses a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state with regard to concealed carry of weapons, meaning that local law enforcement must issue the permit if the applicant meets certain qualifications. Pursuant to Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, section 6109, law enforcement must issue a permit “if, after an investigation not exceeding 45 days, it appears that the applicant is an individual concerning whom no good cause exists to deny the license.”
The essence of Judge Wolfe’s ruling says that use of metal detectors and x-rays for security are permissible at the entrance to a courtroom, but not at a building’s point of entry.
Attorney William Strong predicted the judge’s ruling would have statewide impact. The ruling does not carry jurisdiction over similar ordinances in other counties in the Commonwealth, but when other plaintiffs challenge local ordinances, they will have the Jefferson County ruling as precedent from which to proceed in the Keystone State.
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"Mr. Switzer’s attorney, William Strong, argued successfully that the Jefferson County ordinance prohibiting his client from carrying a legally registered handgun into other county offices was an unconstitutional prohibition of his client’s rights."