Conceal carry seminar planned at York County school draws criticism

Written by Teresa Boeckel,/The York Daily Record | Feb 20, 2018 3:53 AM

FILE PHOTO: Courtney Davis shows where she holsters her concealed firearm while another participant uses a hip holster. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(Dillsburg) -- A seminar to educate the public about state firearm laws had been scheduled for Thursday evening at Northern York Middle School, but the venue was changed Monday after it drew criticism from some in the public.

State Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Franklin Township, is hosting the conceal carry seminar from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. A spokeswoman for the Northern York County District confirmed Monday evening that it will no longer be held at the middle school, 655 S. Baltimore St. in Dillsburg. Keefer moved the event.

PennLive is reporting that the seminar will now be held at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post at 22 Franklin Street in Dillsburg. A person who answered the phone at the VFW could not confirm that is the new location.

Keefer could not be reached for comment Monday.

Attorney Matt Menges, Carroll Township Police Chief Thomas Wargo and a wildlife conservation officer from the state Game Commission will be on the panel. Menges will give a presentation on the laws for carrying a concealed weapon.

Some people have asked on the state representative's Facebook page why the seminar was being held at a school.

Jo Margolis, who lives in the district, said the school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people last week is the most recent gun violence. She wants to see the seminar moved to a new venue or cancelled.

"But there is no place for a 'seminar' that pretends to be informative when it's clearly advocating a dangerous policy in our schools that have already been so victimized," she wrote in an email. 

"It never should have been scheduled in a middle school," she said.

Margolis questioned whether someone would be checking for weapons at the school door the night of the seminar. She also said some attendees, if armed, might be violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act. 

State representatives periodically schedule the conceal carry seminars in their districts. The events can draw more than 100 people, Menges said. He has participated in more than 100 seminars in a variety of locations, including other schools.


State Rep. Dawn Keefer (Photo: Submitted)

Menges said Keefer started planning for this event in December. He understands people are emotional after a tragedy like the school shooting in Florida, but the seminars are intended to educate the public about what is allowed under the law.

"Law abiding gun owners don't go out and do things like what happened in Florida," he said.

A provision under the Gun-Free School Zone Act does allow people who are legally licensed in Pennsylvania to carry a concealed weapon into a school in the state, Menges said. 

"I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to bring a firearm on school property," Menges said.

Wargo said he planned to have security checks to ensure that no one is bringing a weapon into the school on Thursday night, if the event is still on at that point. But he later said he'd have to check on the law after hearing about the provision.

Earlier in the day, the school district issued this statement:

"As a public and governmental entity, we are bound by regulations and laws regarding the use of school facilities by outside groups. Please understand that Representative Keefer scheduled her program prior to the events in Florida. She has fully complied with the Board policy on access to our schools for community events. The decision on whether to proceed with the event rests exclusively with Representative Keefer. Also understand that the School District cannot legally regulate the content of a community program, nor can it be expected to censor discussion on a public policy issue. Any concerns about the timing and content of the program must be addressed to Representative Keefer."

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.

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