The following is a video transcript.
School is back in session and you’re getting ready to drop the kids off at their new classes for the year. But, do you know how school zones affect your gun rights? Schools are one of the main areas in which Pennsylvania gun owners must use extreme caution.
FIREARMS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS
Pennsylvania law prohibits possession of a firearm “in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education, or any elementary or secondary parochial school.”
In other words, this includes all school grounds, except for universities, including schools that are housed in churches. Preschools are not off-limits in Pennsylvania for gun owners unless the preschool is part of a school that has any K through 12th grades also housed in the same building.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW
Pennsylvania law provides a defense “…if the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful, supervised school activity or is possessed for other lawful purposes.” The question of what constitutes “other lawful purposes” continues to be litigated in Pennsylvania.
The courts have not yet affirmatively, indefinitely ruled that carrying for self-defense is a lawful purpose. So, our advice is: unless you want to be the test case, don’t carry your weapon on school grounds. This means dropping off your kids in the drop-off lane at school, even if you never get out of the car. Pennsylvania prohibits carrying in schools at all times, even when school is not in session. This includes evenings and weekends. This also means that you can’t carry your firearm to your son’s basketball game that takes place in the school gym after hours.
There is no law currently in Pennsylvania that prohibits carrying at a school activity that takes place away from school grounds. As an example, your daughter plays the flute and is in the high school marching band. The band is marching in the Veterans Day parade through main street of your town. There are no school grounds where they will be marching or where you will be. You may attend the parade and lawfully carry your firearm in that case.
GUN-FREE SCHOOL ZONES ACT
You should also be aware of the federal law known as the “Gun-Free School Zones Act.”
This federal law prohibits the knowing possession of a firearm in, on the grounds of, or within 1,000 feet of a public, parochial, or private school. Federal law, however, provides an exception that states that if you have a valid license to carry, the Gun-Free School Zones Act does not apply to you. Keep in mind, this exception makes you safe to carry under federal law but does not exempt you from state laws. This means that if you have a license to carry a firearm, you can carry within 1,000 feet of a school, but you are still prohibited from the school buildings, grounds, and conveyances to and from the school.
For any questions regarding carrying in a school zone, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.