Gun incident at Patton MS has community asking questions

Parent apparently left holstered gun in unlocked, running car at school Thursday

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

PattonLogoFullEAST MARLBOROUGH — Unionville-Chadds Ford School District officials reiterated Friday morning that no students were at risk when a Charles F. Patton Middle School parent apparently left a holstered firearm in a running and unlocked car outside of the school, Thursday.

After school security checked out the vehicle — while the parent was in the school picking up his child — East Marlborough police responded to the scene. While the parent, as yet unidentified, legally owned the weapon, it is illegal to carry a weapon onto school grounds under state law.

Still, district officials said, the incident is very troubling — especially in recent light of school shootings.

“Our students were never in any danger, and there was no threat to them, but the incident raises troubling concerns,” Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said in a statement Friday.  “We live in a world today where incidences of violence in schools is all too familiar. Our weapons policy and the Pennsylvania Crimes Code are very strong and clear on this matter and we are vigilant in our pursuit of a safe school environment. We not only rely on our staff, but also the eyes and ears of the entire community, as we work together to ensure the safety of our students.”

The parent — who remains unidentified — is expected to face weapons charges in the incident.

The school is currently undergoing renovations to better secure its entrance, which has changed some of the parking and pickup patterns at the school.

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  1. UCFSD Mother says:

    Again- all this Legalese is making me sick. I really don’t care if this person had a “Legal right/or lawful purpose.” Were they at an assembly discussing law enforcement? Explaining that, despite all the 1st person shooter games kids are playing, guns are deadly
    We have to acknowledge that Europeans and others are dumbstruck by the sheer number of guns in the streets. And no, I’m not talking for “deer hunting.” Which, no serious hunter would ever use these urban assault rifles on.
    But when a parent leaves a weapon on the front seat, and walks away, and leaves the car unlocked, I DO BELIEVE IT BECOMES political. Because this reflects an opinion that guns are not UNSAFE and that, every gun owner practices common senses. Which is why only people with lawful purpose should own guns. Because there are just too many idiots to protect our kids from.
    Name and Shame this parent who put our children in imminent danger!

    • Sean says:

      UCFSD Mother. What I find amazing is that this story has been twisted from the very beginning. The firearm was not left in plain view in the vehicle, and the security guard did not view it from outside of the unit. A security guard from the school entered the vehicle on his own, and then found the weapon holstered and in the door pocket of the car. Why did the security guard enter a private vehicle? With the key fobs of today, it is very common to think you locked your door when you didn’t. Do I take issue with an unsecured firearm in a school parking lot, of course I do. However, when we can’t get the truth out of the media. I then get concerned about what really happened that day. There are approximately 750,000 concealled carry permits in PA, or about 1 out of every 14 residents. Nationally, the numbers are around 1 in 50. PA is a very pro gun state whether you like it or not. Having a firearm to protect myself and my family is a lawful purpose. Since it’s been weeks since the incident and no charges have been filed, my gut tells me that they don’t have a violation of law. In law enforcement, when you have someone dead to right you charge them and allow the courts to sort it out. In this case that has not happened. Let us hear the real story before we determine how to handle the situation.

      • Mike McGann says:

        So basically, you just called me a liar, without any basis in fact. You are making claims without citing sources — so I would like to know where this comes from.

        We reported what was released, no more, no less. We never specified the location of the gun. We never specified charges. So, if anyone is lying here, it’s not us. If East Marlborough PD had put out a report on the incident, maybe things would be clearer. But they did not.

        So, again, what is your source?

  2. Voice of Reason says:

    I’m not advocating for or against gun laws. I believe having as much information as possible is key. I’m sure there are many articles showing the opposite. Where having access to guns saved lives. I’d like to read them too.

  3. Sharon Sears says:

    Why wasn’t the accused named? If I am stopped for reckless driving my name is put in the newspaper. Parents need to know who this person is. I would not like a child of mine getting a ride with this nutcase or god forbid being at this person’s home

    • Mike McGann says:

      East Marlborough PD hasn’t put a report out as yet. Depending on the township, there’s a few days of lag due to limited personnel.

      • Voice of reason says:


        That is so lame. That “due to limited personnel” excuse is always dragged out when tax paying citizens ask for accountability. There is no underdog here. There is no “poor me” here. How long does it take to write a report? And this doesn’t mean I think there should be one or that I want one or that I think the parent should be named.

        Stop deflecting attention away from the point with the “poor public official” stuff.

        • Sean says:

          I’ve worked in two police departments in 2 states, and a week is about the norm. Also, if the investigation is ongoing then it may take longer. Many people in PA have a permit to carry a firearm. While leaving it unsecured was dumb, it doesn’t make it a crime. If the owner didn’t have a permit, then it would be a felony of the 3rd degree. We all make mistakes in life, fortunately no one was hurt here.

    • M says:

      “Nutcase” is a big rush to judgment, but I think by “nutcase” you probably mean “gun owner”. I think this parent was probably in a hurry to pick up a child, realized the legally owned firearm was still on his/her person and hastily took it off and placed it in the vehicle so as not to bring it in to the school. Leaving it in plain view with the car running and unlocked was surely a mistake, but let’s not try to publicly disgrace a member of our community without knowing the circumstances.

    • M says:

      Furthermore, I would like to add, that whoever happened by the vehicle and noticed the weapon, did a great service to all of us who have students at the school by notifying the authorities.

  4. Turn182 says:

    So….anyone not condoning bringing a gun to a middle school and leaving it in an unlocked car is executing a “political agenda?” Did God tell you this personally?

    C’mon. It was a knucklehead move and you guys are arguing in support of it. What’s next a salute to the Roanoke gunman as NRA man of the year?

    And lets tell an awkward truth: this isn’t about rights. It’s about money. It’s about gunmakers seeing sales increase everytime there is a gun event. And lawyers making money from arguing ridiculous things in courts.

    Its not about rights. It’s a big lie. And no matter how many people die, someone profits. Maybe its time to ask about that.

    • Sean says:

      Leaving a firearm unsecured is dumb. No one is arguing in favor of doing that. Howevee, there is no duty for the police to protect you or even show up at a call. SCOTUS has said repeatedly the police must only protect society as whole. There is nothing wrong with folks acquiring the proper license and then carrying a firearm for protection. If you don’t like forearms, then don’t purchase one. The PSP patrol a large area with very few officers. A 20 min response time in a violent attack will unfortunately result in many lives being lost. I would rather have the ability to protect my family, then to wait and have my life taken by a bad guy.

  5. Steve says:

    The holstered firearm MUST have been in plain view…on the seat perhaps? Now this parent goes in,gets his child, and then the child enters the vehicle with a gun in plain view. Endangering the welfare of a child??? Seems he put his child at risk also

  6. The law specifically provides for an exception where a firearm is possessed for a lawful purpose on school property. Accordingly, if the individual lawfully possessed the firearm, for example pursuant to a valid PA license to carry firearms, the exception would apply and no crime would have been committed. This is an important issue that I frequently deal with in my practice, as I handle firearms law matters across the Commonwealth.

    • Mike McGann says:

      Title 18 chapter 912 prohibits possession of a weapon on school grounds.

      And I quote:

      “A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a weapon in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school.”

      • And I quote:

        “Defense.–It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose”

        So, why did you elect to leave this portion of the statute out? Or is the law not important and only your political agenda is?

        • Sean says:

          And defense of ones self or their family is a legitimate and lawful reason to possess a firearm. End of story.

          • Voice of reason says:


            It seems to me, this is a chain of possession issue. When the parent left the gun in a running unlocked car in a school parking lot, self defense –
            legitimate and lawful reason to possess a fire arm went out the window. There must be an ordinance or something requiring citizens to properly secure fire arms at all times. Perhaps his right to carry a fire arm permit should be revoked.

          • AngryUCFDad says:

            So then by this argument, knives and whathaveyou are also legal on school grounds, as they can be legally used and possessed. In fact, by this argument all of regulation prohibiting weapons in school is mooted.

          • Voice of Reason says:

            I don’t think it’s illegal to bring a knife to school. They probably take the knife, call your mom and maybe suspend you for a few days. Do they call police? Probably depends on the circumstances.

          • Sean says:

            No possession equals no crime.

        • Patton MS Complacency says:

          Well done, Josh. We cannot expect thorough and fair journalism from this editor. What we can expect is a heavy political bent and ramblings about his many areas of expertise that he blathers about.

          • UCFSD Parent says:

            This is not about politics! This is about the stupidity of leaving a car running, unlocked, with a gun in plain sight. How anyone could even determine “your child was in no danger” is ludicrous. The poor judgement of this parent should be in question. And as soon as we know he name if this parent it should be published. Because I would not let my middle schooler in that home.

      • Sean says:

        Mike, I have to disagree with you. Chris and Joshua are correct in regards to the crimes code and section C. While it was stupid to leave a firearm exposed in an unlocked vehicle, that doesn’t mean that it’s a violation of the law. I’ve worked in law enforcement for 26 years, and have seen plenty of stupid acts that don’t result in an arrest. Furthermore, Joshua Prince is an excellent firearms attorney and I would most definitely trust his legal opinion.

  7. chris phillips says:

    “Pennsylvania Crimes Code are very strong and clear on this matter and we are vigilant in our pursuit of a safe school environment. ” please quote the crime code that prohibits firearms on school property in PA if used for “other lawful purpose’s”? … here ill post the actual crime code from the PA website so you can see yourself your statement is INCORRECT. note section (c)

    • Rob says:

      I’m going to suggest that the weapon, seeing as it was sitting alone in an idling and unlocked car, was not possessed by the owner at the time, so section c is invalid in this case. I can’t really quite believe section c exists – seems like a massive loophole inserted by the gun lobby to negate the previous sections.

      • Amy says:

        Unfortunately, one does not need to pass an IQ or Judgement test to get a gun permit. But all this legalese has my blood boiling. Just name the parent- that’s what’s important here. If that parent keeps a gun in the front seat of a running car, then I think parents have a right to know their approach to keeping kids safe from that firearm. Would you seriously let your sin or daughter go to that house or stay overnight?! The fascination with guns (fueled by 1st person shooter video games), never ends with boys. God forbid there are young children in that household.

        • Voice of reason says:

          Publicly shaming a parent for having a firearm in the the front seat of their running car won’t work. Many parents keep loaded guns in their homes. You just don’t know it. Start asking homeowners before your child goes over to play if they have a firearm in their home. My guess is your child will have way fewer play dates. Downingtown is right next door. People carry rifles on the hood of their trucks, and students get school off for the first day of hunting season. Come on.

      • If it was not possessed by the owner, then there can be no violation of Section 912. So, it would seem that you agree that this individual should either not be charged because he could not have possessed it for purposes of subsection (a) or if he/she did possess it, it falls under the protections afforded by subsection (c).

        • Sean says:

          This is all about a liberal anti gun agenda. Did the parent make a very stupid mistake ? Yes. However, that doesn’t make it a crime.

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