Rap artist, Tierra Whack, charged with disorderly conduct for alleged loaded handgun in Philadelphia’s airport – How serious is it?
Recently, Tierra Whack (aka Tierra Whack-Welton), a well- known rap music artist from Philadelphia was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after airport security discovered a loaded handgun during a security screening. This case serves as an important example of how a person can potentially commit a crime if he or she fails to recognize that guns are not permitted in certain public spaces regardless if you have a permit to carry.
In this case Ms. Whack is not charged with any felony or even misdemeanor gun crimes because she was a legal gun owner at that time of her arrest. In addition to legally owning this gun, Ms. Whack maintained a valid conceal carry permit. Despite this status, however, Ms. Whack was still charged with a crime in Pennsylvania. So what happened?
The most common gun crimes in Pennsylvania are violations of Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act under Section 6106, 6105 and section 6108.
Section 6105 – Possession of gun or firearm by a “prohibited” person
In Pennsylvania, Section 6105 and 6106 both involve the illegal possession of a gun, typically a handgun. Section 6105 is the possession of a firearm by a person not to possess or otherwise known as a prohibited person. A person convicted under this section is one found in the possession of a gun or a firearm who has been previously convicted of what Pennsylvania classifies as an enumerated offense. An enumerated offense can be any one of a number of offenses but the most common are violent felonies such as aggravated assault, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, robbery, and burglary.
Enumerated offenses also include persons who have been convicted of drunk driving on 3 or more separate occasions within a 5 year period, a person with an active PFA order against them, or protection from abuse orders. Enumerated offenses also include those convicted of drug crimes where the maximum punishment exceeds 2 years. While this wouldn’t include a conviction for simple possession it would include convictions for felony possession with the intent to deliver any controlled substances.
It’s important to keep in mind that a person can be convicted of a 6105 offense even if they are found in possession of a gun in their home or place of business.
Here, Ms. Whack had no prior criminal history and was therefore legally able to own or possess a gun in the Commonwealth.
Section 6106 – Possession of Gun or Firearm without a permit to carry
Section 6106 however, involves the illegal possession of a firearm without a license. Unlike New Jersey, a person doesn’t need a permit to own a firearm or even possess it, provided that they keep that gun or firearm within their home or place of business. If they take the gun out of the home or place of business they must have a permit (concealed carry) to do so unless they are simply traveling with the gun to a range or to have it repaired. It’s important to understand that these 2 offenses, 6105 and 6106, are separate. 6106 is a felony of the 3rd degree when a person commits it along with another offense; otherwise it is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that if you are found illegally possessing a gun in the city of Philadelphia, you will more than likely face felony charges as the district attorney will more than likely charge you with an additional offense under 6108 which possessing a firearm on the streets in Philadelphia. This is a misdemeanor of the 1st degree.
Since Ms. Whack had obtained a permit to carry, she was not subject to either of these criminal charges.
Why was Tierra Whack charged with Disorderly Conduct (Title 18, Section 5503?)
Disorderly Conduct in Pennsylvania is conduct which causes or intends to cause a hazardous or offensive possession. There is also other conduct which would be classified as disorderly which would include making noise or causing some other public disturbance. In this situation, Ms. Wack was charged because bringing a gun into an airport when it is strictly prohibited could create situation of widespread fear within the facility.
Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor offense if it causes a substantial inconvenience (shutting down the airport) but in most cases it is a summary offense. Ms. Wack was charged with a summary offense and will more than likely not face any prosecution on this charge. She will be eligible for a summary diversion program which will allow her to avoid any criminal record, including an arrest record
What about Tierra Whack’s constitutional right against illegal search and seizure?
Warrantless searches are for the most part illegal in Pennsylvania. There are however exceptions to the search warrant requirement. One of these exceptions are airport security screening. Ms. Wack’s constitutional rights did not apply in this case because she, like all passengers, surrender practically all of their constitutional rights by implicity consenting to search as condition to enter the airport.
Will other states, like New Jersey, honor Ms. Whak’s permit to carry in Pennsylvania when she travels outside of the Commonwealth?
No. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have very different gun laws and New Jersey will not honor a Pennsylvania gun permit. In most situations a person cannot obtain a permit to possess or a concealed carry permit in New Jersey and New Jersey actually requires a permit to even purchase a handgun which is not a requirement in Pennsylvania. There are states that do honor Pennsylvania concealed carry permits. It is interesting that Pennsylvania does not have reciprocity with most neighboring states such as New Jersey, New York, or Delaware.
There are some states that Pennsylvania does have reciprocity with include Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia which is actually a neighboring state. If you are traveling with a gun or firearm out of Pennsylvania it is important that you keep it in a gun or some type of secure container with the ammunition separate. The gun should be unloaded.
As stated earlier, I do not expect Ms. Whack to face any prosecution and or receive a criminal record as the result of this incident. It was simply a mistake and just some poor judgment on his part!.
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