“Other lawful purpose” defense to possession of weapon on school property encompasses uses of weapon not related to school activities

Commonwealth v Andrew Goslin, 2017 PA Super 38 (February 16, 2017)

Mr. Goslin, after a hard day of work as a carpenter, arrived at his son’s school to discuss his suspension. In his pocket was a 3-4” pocketknife he used for work, whittling, sharpening pencils, and opening cans of tuna. During the meeting he removed the knife from his pocket and “forcefully” placed it on a table and asked if he would be arrested. Eventually, he was. He was charged with violating possession of a weapon on school property, 18 Pa.C.S §912, and convicted. (Terroristic threats charges were also filed, but dismissed.)

The trial court rejected Mr. Goslin’s proffered defense under 912(c) that he possessed the weapon for “other lawful purposes,” ruling that the phrase “lawful supervised school activity”, listed in §912(c) in the disjunctive, modified the “other lawful purposes” language, and as such restricted such “activities” to school activities. The Superior Court did not discern such a limitation, and vacated the conviction and remanded for a new trial.

image of weapons seized from U.K. school from Manchester Evening News.

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