Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Gun-like hand gesture a crime in Pennsylvania

Stephen Kirchner of Manor Township, Lancaster County made a gun-like hand gesture at his neighbor and was arrested for disorderly conduct, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sure, he thought, brandishing finger guns was only likely to inflame tensions between the bickering residents. But a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled last week that it also constituted a crime.
Superior Court upheld Mr. Kirchner's 2018 conviction on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, ruling that his firing finger aimed at neighbor Josh Klingseisen "served no legitimate purpose and recklessly risked provoking a dangerous altercation."
Mr. Kirchner's lawyer said his client has not yet decided whether to appeal or to accept the penalty, a $100 fine. But since the court released its ruling Tuesday, it has drawn national attention and set social media abuzz.
In writing the opinion, Judge Maria McLaughlin made clear that she and the two other appellate judges who heard the case did not view all forms of finger gun — a pervasive gesture frequent on schoolyard playgrounds and favored by campaigning politicians — as a criminal offense. Instead, they based their findings on the particulars of Mr. Kirchner's case.
The dynamic between him and Mr. Klingseisen was so charged that when Mr. Kirchner mimicked "the firing and recoiling of a gun," he risked causing a fight or further provoking the conflict, Judge McLaughlin wrote.
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