Do ‘no gun’ signs have the power of law? Here’s what we found – LNP | LancasterOnline


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Days after gunfire rang out in Park City Center, Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams announced a bystander who intervened legally armed with a handgun would not face charges.

The bystander, only identified as a man in his 50s, was in the mall on Sunday, Oct. 17, with his wife when hurried to the scene where police say a scuffle started over a gun 16-year-old Jeremiahs Josiah-Alberto Sanchez had. 

The man was legally licensed to carry a concealed handgun, but the mall does have a no-weapons policy, which is posted at entrances.

Do the signs placed on private property have the force of law?

Here’s what we found:

Do “no gun” signs have the force of law?

At the news conference Friday, Adams acknowledged that the mall, which is privately owned, has a policy that prohibits firearms on the premises.

“However, that is a policy only,” she said. “Any civilian that can legally possess a firearm, has a license to carry, is not violating a criminal law by being in the mall with a weapon.”

“No Firearms” signs in Pennsylvania have no force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in state law as being off limits to those with permits to carry a concealed firearm.

“Enforcing the policy is the responsibility of Park City,” said Sean McBryan, a spokesperson for the district attorney's office. “If an individual who is in violation of the policy refuses to comply or refuses to leave the premises, law enforcement would be notified of the trespass.”

McBryan added that it would be up to other privately owned businesses to enforce their no-firearm policies and those who don't comply could face trespassing charges.

Where does state law prohibit concealed carry of firearms?

  • Schools

  • Court facilities

  • TSA security checkpoints and airplanes

  • Federal facilities (postal offices, military base, etc.)

  • Prisons, jails or other detention facilities

  • Mental health hospitals

What do I need in order to carry a concealed firearm?

A license to carry firearms is issued so a person can carry a firearm concealed “on one’s person or in a vehicle” within Pennsylvania, according to state police’s website.

If you don’t have a license to carry but want to transport your firearm in your car, you would need to carry the unloaded firearm and ammunition in two separate containers inside the vehicle.

Who can carry a concealed firearm?

State law states that anyone who is 21 years old or older can apply for a license to carry firearms at the sheriff’s office of the county they reside in.

For Lancaster County, there’s a $20 fee per application.

Once the application has been submitted, the sheriff must issue the license to carry firearms within 45 days unless the Pennsylvania Instant Check System shows there are records that indicate the person is prohibited from owning a firearm.

“In accordance with 18 PA C.S. §6109, a sheriff may deny an individual the right to a License to Carry Firearms if there is reason to believe that the character and reputation of the individual are such that they would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety,” according to state police’s website. “If the PICS check is approved and the subject is of good character, the sheriff may issue a License to Carry Firearms.”

Once issued, a license is valid for five years unless sooner revoked.

Pennsylvania State Police reports that as of Oct. 1, 2021, there are 1,492,548 active permits statewide.

When is an application denied?

There are a number of reasons why a license may not be issued, including:

  • An individual “whose character and reputation” is such that the individual would be likely to act dangerously in public.

  • An individual has been convicted of an offense under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act of 1972, or adjudicated delinquent for a crime in the last 10 years.

  • Being convicted of a crime relating to persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms, or adjudicated delinquent for a crime in the last 10 years.

  • An individual who is “not of sound mind” or has ever been committed to a mental institution.

  • An individual who is a “habitual drunkard.”

Once issued, a license is valid for five years unless sooner revoked.

Where can I openly carry a firearm?

As long as you’re a law-abiding citizen and are allowed to carry a firearm, you can openly carry a firearm in public places without a license.

State law requires people openly carrying a firearm to have a license to carry in “cities of the first class,” or cities with a population of over one million. The only city with such a designation in Pennsylvania is Philadelphia.

Where can’t I openly carry a firearm?

Like concealed carrying, openly carrying firearms is prohibited in schools, courthouses, federal buildings or prisons.

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