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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 6, 2019 04:12 PM
From: Representative Melissa L. Shusterman
To: All House members
Subject: Prohibiting Firearms in Court Buildings
Court waiting rooms can be tense, emotional, and sometimes even dangerous when defendants, victims, and witnesses are all sharing a common area. Unfortunately, current law allows weapons to be brought into these areas. Last year, a defendant in a domestic abuse case shot four people, including a police officer, in a crowded Magisterial District Court lobby where 30 to 40 cases were scheduled to be heard that day.

Currently, weapons can be possessed in court waiting rooms but must be placed in a safe locker before the individual enters the actual courtroom. Unfortunately, many of these court buildings do not have the space to keep safe weapon lockers away from others in the waiting area. In Lancaster County, a gun accidentally discharged while a man was retrieving his firearm from one of these lockers.

My legislation would close the loophole that allows weapons to be brought into court waiting areas. Pennsylvania Magisterial District Courts handled over 2.3 million cases and collected over $250 million in fines and costs in 2017. Despite handling a massive caseload and significant funds, most courts lack sufficient security. Magisterial District Courts occupy a wide variety of venues from strip malls to stand alone buildings to offices in municipal buildings. Some of our Magisterial District Judges have said these buildings cannot be properly secured and have asked that we pass this legislation to discourage bringing weapons into the courts.

If victims and defendants must co-exist in our court lobbies, then neither should be subject to intimidation by the other parties’ weapons. Furthermore, it is my belief that no Pennsylvanian should ever need to worry about his or her safety when the need arises to go to court. Please join me in protecting our judicial process and preventing further tragedy.