My Comment: Note Blue highlighted text. Although still somewhat vague this is the first public pronouncement I've ever read / heard on the matter of open carry.
Gun law seminar hits target
By Michael Aubele
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Friday, September 9, 2005
New Kensington resident Andre Kiefer said he's had a hard time finding reliable information about state and federal gun laws. He said he wasn't given adequate information when he bought his guns. Other searches, such as scouring the Internet, didn't turn up much he thought he could trust. "They'll tell you on the Internet that aliens are here," Kiefer said. He said a manual should be given to people who buy guns that outline each state and federal gun law. Kiefer said he was pleased to learn that the Alle-Kiski Health Foundation was sponsoring its Gun Violence Prevention Symposium on Thursday at the Clarion Hotel.
"I think this has been very helpful," said Kiefer, who was among about 200 citizens who attended, not including numerous law-enforcement officials. For one thing, Kiefer learned that certain people, such as those who have been committed to a mental institution or were dishonorably discharged from the military, aren't allowed to possess guns or ammunition.
There are cases where someone who has been committed to a mental institution can argue in a court, however, that he or she doesn't pose a threat and could be allowed to carry a gun. The law also applies to convicted felons, which is something most people know. Ross Lenhardt, a senior assistant district attorney in Allegheny County, said there are other laws many gun owners aren't aware of, such as what constitutes a concealed weapon. If someone sticks a gun down the front of his pants and only a small portion of the gun is visible, it most likely would be considered a concealed weapon. The person carrying the gun would need a permit, he said.
However, if the gun is in a holster and is visible on a person's hip, chances are the weapon wouldn't be considered a concealed weapon and could be carried without a permit.
Lenhardt and Stephen Kaufman, with the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh said that state and federal officials use every law that they can to their advantage in prosecuting those who violate gun laws. Convicted drug dealers will face stiffer sentences if a gun is involved in the crime, Lenhardt said. Someone who removes all or a portion of a gun's serial number faces felony charges. Someone who possesses a gun with a serial number that has been tampered with, even if that person didn't try to remove the serial number, faces a high-level misdemeanor charge, he said.
The event featured several speakers who addressed issues ranging from state and federal gun laws, punishments for gun violations and gun safety. In recent years, more than two dozen people have died in violent acts in the Valley. More have been wounded, and there have been at least three dozen substantiated reports of shots fired. John Pastorek, the health foundation's president and chief executive officer, said the summit's goal was to educate people about gun violence and dispel rumors about things such as the use of lethal force, because they are health and wellness issues.
Pastorek said the foundation also wanted to enable people to help authorities combat gun violence. "We look at it as our duty to help and inform the citizens, because ultimately, it becomes an issue of health and quality of life," he said. Several teachers attended the summit hoping to glean useful information they could pass along to their students. Valley High School teacher Eileen Matyas, who among other things teaches freshman seminar,said much of what she heard would be useful in the classroom. "We all need to be made aware of these things," she said. "No neighborhood is completely safe anymore."
Stephanie Mackowski, who also teaches ninth-graders at Valley High School, said not enough information about gun violence is readily available to students. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms showed the audience pictures of pen guns, which students can smuggle into schools more easily than a typical gun. Mary Lou Bitar, a former first-grade teacher at Edgewood Elementary School, said she had an interest in things such as "zero tolerance" and gun-free school zones. Typically, guns aren't permitted within 1,000 feet of a school. There are exceptions, however. Lenhardt said someone living within 1,000 feet of a school can possess a gun on his private property, as one example.
Pastorek said the health foundation is launching a gun violence education program for the area youth through schools and youth groups. Thursday's event, meantime, offered adults information about topics such as "lethal force" and how law-enforcement officials and the courts might determine if it was called for in any given situation and if it should be punished. Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said he was somewhat apprehensive about discussing lethal force because there are a number of variables involved in each situation that would determine if it was appropriate or not.
Peck and Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said, "there are no bright lines" that distinguish between proper use of lethal force and improper use. Andreassi said that people generally have the right to use lethal force against someone attacking them in their home. However, if an intruder is running from a house and the homeowner shoots the intruder outside, there's a good chance the homeowner could be convicted of a crime. Peck said the law requires people to flee the scene of an attack and avoid using lethal force in self-defense if it's reasonably possible.
"You must make the right decisions" when defending yourself, Andreassi said. New Kensington resident Denzel Morgan said among the things he learned was that each state has its own gun laws and that anyone taking a gun into another state is subject to those laws.
Staff writer Chuck Biedka contributed to this report.
Michael Aubele can be reached at email@example.com or (724) 226-4673.