WEST WYOMING — When it comes to carrying weapons in Luzerne County, presenters at a “Concealed Carry Seminar” on Thursday night encouraged common sense.
In addition to addressing requirements for carrying a concealed weapon and providing information about how to safely do so, the event also addressed other gun related topics.
District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis explained to over 70 attendees that the state’s Castle Doctrine is predicated on an individual’s right to be safe in his or her home.
She said the law was quite extensive and provided examples of various scenarios in which a citizen could legally fire a weapon.
The law, she said, was expanded by Gov. Tom Corbett in 2011, when he signed legislation giving Pennsylvanians the right to not only remain safe in their homes, but to “stand their ground” in public places without a duty to retreat.
She also detailed scenarios in which someone could not legally discharge their weapon.
“For example,” she said jokingly. “If your spouse is coming home late from work, you can’t shoot him.”
First Assistant District Attorney Samuel M. Sanguedolce said in Pennsylvania citizens can “open carry” a weapon without a license, but that a license is required to carry a concealed weapon.
He again encouraged attendees to use reason and respect when carrying a weapon.
“You can’t chase someone and shoot at them, even if they have attacked you,” he said. “Because at that point, they are no longer a threat.”
Salavantis shared details of incidents in which citizens have discharged their weapons in protecting other people, giving the example of a bar owner in Plymouth who reasonably believed someone was returning to the bar to kill patrons.
In that case, she said, the bar owner non-fatally shot the man, making it impossible for him to injure others.
“It’s what I call the concept of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” she said. “If you see someone being raped, you have a right to defend them just as you would yourself.”
Sheriff Brian Szumski, also emphasized the use of common sense, saying, “If you are going to use deadly force, you have to truly believe that you are in danger.”
Szumski encouraged those choosing to open carry to know how to use handle their guns and to use them with discernment.
Salavantis presented slides showing that it is often difficult to differentiate between real guns and fake/toy guns.
Pointing to the photo of a pink gun, she said, “unfortunately, one little boy didn’t know that this was a real gun and shot his sibling.”
She also showed a toy “super shooter” that she said had been modified to function as a real weapon.
William Hardwick, of Kingston, was attending such a presentation for the first time and said it was time well spent.
“They started out saying that they would address every question we had,” he said. “And they did.”
Hardwick, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon, said there were some subtleties of the law that he had had questions about but that the seminar fully addressed them.
State Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston, who organized the seminar said it was a topic about which many of his constituents had questions.
“Every time we have this type of seminar,” he said. “We fill the room.”
Kaufer said he was grateful to the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department for making the seminar possible.
Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons.