More From Penn State

Reader Nathaniel points to conflicting reports from both CenterDaily and The Collegian, about a man arrested on campus for weapons possession. First CenterDaily:

A Penn State student remained in jail Sunday night after arriving at an on-campus concert with three weapons, including a gun, and fighting with police as they tried to investigate.

Just before midnight Saturday, university police said they were advised a man in the crowd at the Movin’ On concert on the HUB lawn was carrying a firearm.

As officers approached the man — later identified by police as Isaiah R. Houston, age unavailable, of 137 Creekside Drive, College Township — a struggle immediately ensued, said university police Lt. Bill Moerschbacher.

Houston, who police said was drunk at the time, was carrying an expandable baton and a knife, Moerschbacher said. But the weapons were brandished, he said.

“As it turns out, the firearm was lawfully owned,” he said. “He had a carry permit.”

The charge is carrying prohibited offensive weapons, not carrying of a concealed firearm. The relevant statute is here. Basically the list of prohibited weapons is as follows:

Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

My guess is, depending on the knife, they are charging him with the expandable baton. It is an exception to this part of the statute that the actor was in compliance with the National Firearms Act, so your NFA stamp makes you legal for some of them. It’s important for Pennsylvanians to note that the LTC covers only firearms. It’s legal to carry certain types of knives, but others are illegal. Must bludgeons are also illegal.

From the collegian:

Moerschbacher said Houston did not take out the firearm before or during the struggle.

“He didn’t threaten anyone with the firearm or anything,” he said. “The struggle is really what precipitated that arrest and discovering the other items.”

Jameela Truman, director of Movin’ On, said she witnessed the arrest.

She said she felt threatened by the event, but the police “fully handled the situation.”

Possessing a firearm is illegal on campus, Moerschbacher said. However, he said if the handgun is legally registered, police will ask the owner to leave or surrender the gun to the police. If the handgun is illegal, police will arrest the possessor, he said.

Either the Penn State paper got it wrong, or Moerschbacher is misrepresenting the law here. It is not against the law to possess a firearm on the campus of a University if you’re in possession of a License to Carry Firearms. But they do state the charges here:

Isaiah R. Houston, 137 Creekside Drive, was charged with public drunkenness, resisting arrest and possessing prohibited offensive weapons.

They don’t mention here that he’s being charged with unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm, which tells me that he probably does indeed have an LTC, which he will now lose. His carrying the firearm on university property was not illegal. That said, Houston is clearly a bozo, and is someone who ought not have a license. He’ll lose his, and I’m not going to shed a tear for him, because:

  1. He was carrying his firearm while he was intoxicated
  2. He fought with police when they asked him to leave school property.
  3. He was carrying other weapons which are not covered under the LTC, and were illegal.
  4. He allowed someone to spot his weapon. In my five years of carrying a firearm, I’ve never had anyone notice I was carrying one.

It is for certain that the Penn State Campus Police can’t arrest someone from carrying a concealed firearm unlawfully if the carry on campus while in possession of a valid LTC. But Penn State Campus Police policy has always been to remove anyone from campus found in possession of a firearm. The state’s preemption statute prevents political subdivisions of the state from making rules more strict than the laws of the state, but I don’t know whether Penn State is allowed to exercise its powers as a property holder. I suspect this is a legal gray area.

Unless the legislature wants to clarify this, or the courts make a decision on it, if you’re carrying on campus at a university in Pennsylvania, it’s best to be discrete, and if the police ask you to leave campus, to do so.

UPDATE: Follow the links in the comments. It seems Houston claims he was not, in fact, drunk, and that the Penn State Police basically used physical force to detain him. He is indeed charged with carrying the baton. I don’t know case law to know whether or not this is against the law. The law names several bludgeons by name, but has the catch all at the end. It’s advisable that people be careful about carrying non-firearm weapons.  Yes, it’s ridiculous, but that’s because there’s a better gun lobby than a bludgeon lobby.

2 thoughts on “More From Penn State”

  1. Hey there, I know this is an old post but found it while googlin’. There’s an ongoing thread about this in the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Assoc. forum here.

    The person of relevance supposedly posted in this thread and refuted some of the allegations here.

    I’m in the process of trying to find an update on all of this.


  2. Thanks for the comment. No matter that it’s old. I’d also be curious how this turns out. I’m not sure they have a case with the baton.

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