Pennsylvania's stance on firearms has always been evident: gun rights are to be fiercely protected. This sentiment is echoed throughout the state's legislative, political, and social history. But a few months back, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that disrupted the trend of gridlock gun laws that were enforced for over a decade.
The law will require defendants who have been issued a final order in protection from abuse (PFA) cases to surrender all of their firearms to law enforcement, a licensed gun dealer, or an attorney within 24 hours. A big shift from the current law, which leaves the enforcement of such requirements to the discretion of a judge. As of now, defendants have much room to breathe, as they have roughly two months to turn over their guns, and are granted the option of doing so to family and friends.
When effective in three months, the judge could agree to an extension if necessary, or the person who requested the PFA could agree to let the defendant keep their guns.
The law was vehemently pushed by anti-domestic violence advocates and gun safety groups. Movements like “Me Too” and incidents like the Parkland shooting in Florida also helped spur its enactment. But what sealed the deal for many was the shooting that occurred at the Masontown district justice's office. After being permitted to keep his firearms despite a PFA order, 62-year-old Joseph A. Dowdell from Fayette County charged into the office and opened fire. Four people were injured before he was shot down and killed by an officer. A law of this nature was put in place before, an individual in his position would have never gotten the opportunity to commit such a crime.
Pennsylvania isn't the first state to enforce anti-violence laws involving firearms, and undoubtedly won't be the last given the rising rates of violence involving firearms across the nation. According to the Associated Press, 39 states have passed bills to restrict or expand gun rights since early last year.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
The stakes are high in PFA cases for both plaintiffs, defendants, and other involved parties. Of course, plaintiffs are seeking protection for themselves and/or their loved ones when requesting a PFA. Defendants, on the other hand, must ensure that their rights and interests are protected. After all, the consequences of a final order are severe and can haunt defendants throughout their entire life, limiting their employment and education opportunities. Not to mention the possibility of legal penalties like jail time or probation if criminal charges are filed.
Knowing the law is important, but it's only half the battle. Getting your account of what happened heard in a PFA hearing is critical to ensuring a fair process. It is strongly recommended that you seek the assistance of experienced and skilled legal counsel to help you defend yourself. Knowledgeable attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping people who have been in your shoes. Contact him today online or by phone at (215) 535-5353.