In Pennsylvania, lawyers may lawfully store guns for clients. But is that really a good idea?
What if the weapons have been used to commit crimes? What if a gun accidentally goes off? What if your fingerprints are all over them? Of course, lawmakers had a reason for the new law. They wanted to encourage lawbreakers to surrender their guns. But do attorneys really want to be caught holding a loaded bag?
Protection From Abuse
The Protection from Abuse Act, which went into effect in April, requires defendants in certain cases to relinquish their firearms and ammunition. That includes misdemeanants in domestic violence cases. The law allows them to turn over the guns to law enforcement, licensed firearms dealers, and lawyers. Philadelphia lawyer Joseph Lento is all over it. He already paid $3,500 for a gun safe at the office. Under the new law, he said, there isn't much more to it. "It doesn't require much on my part, other than say, just an initial investment and some ongoing oversight," he said.
With a few domestic violence cases, Lento may see a good return on his investment. A good safe could be cheaper than billboard advertising. But not everybody sees it that way. The PA Post reported that other lawyers have concerns, like liability, insurance, and security issues. "This seems well outside the scope of what we signed up for as attorneys," said Todd Spivak, who handles domestic violence cases. "When I first learned of this new law, I thought it was bizarre, frankly."
Not all laws are created equal, of course. In the hierarchy, the U.S. Constitution is a lot higher than the Protection From Abuse Act. Unless the National Rifle Association or other gun advocates complain, however, the Pennsylvania law seems like it is there to stay. Still, is it a good idea for lawyers to hoard guns? Think about it: one search warrant for guns would be really bad advertising for any law firm. What would newspapers say about that?
Of course, there is no constitutional right to be free from bad decisions and America has many dumb laws. Pennsylvania, which also makes it illegal for felons to operate Bingo games, is not alone. Oklahoma, for example, prohibits bear wrestling. Maybe that's a good idea, but breaking the law would seem to be the least of your worries.