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Can private businesses ban guns?

The Oct. 17 shooting at Lancaster's Park City Center has called into question the enforceability of gun bans in private businesses.

LANCASTER, Pa. — The signs proclaiming “firearms are prohibited” outside Park City Center didn’t stop a shooting from happening on Oct. 17.

It turns out the gun ban isn’t even enforceable, according to Lancaster County officials.

“That is a policy only. It does not trump the law,” District Attorney Heather Adams said at an Oct. 22 press conference. “So any civilian that can legally possess a firearm, has a license to carry, is not violating a criminal law by being in the mall with a weapon.”

According to Pennsylvania state law, guns are prohibited from certain locations: schools, court facilities, TSA security checkpoints and airplanes, federal facilities (postal offices, military bases, etc.), prisons or other detention facilities, and mental health hospitals.

Legally carried firearms are allowed everywhere else, including malls like Park City Center.

Accordingly, the armed civilian who helped end the shooting incident with his own legally concealed gun, identified only as a male in his 50s, will not face any criminal charges.

“The armed civilian’s action were not only justified under the law, but potentially and likely prevented others from serious injury or death,” Adams said.

The unenforceability of private gun bans leaves businesses and other venues with limited options to control guns on their premises.

“You can understand why these big venues don’t want people carrying guns,” said Harrisburg-based criminal defense attorney Corky Goldstein. “What would happen if they let someone in with a gun and they were the one that started the problem?”

“No gun” signs aren’t completely toothless, legal experts said. Though carrying a permitted gun doesn’t break state law, it does violate the mall’s rules.

“They have a right to make their internal rules that you cannot bring any kind of firearm into their establishment,” Goldstein said.

Businesses can remove anyone violating their rules and pursue trespassing charges.

Law enforcement officials emphasized it is the job of private businesses to enforce their own rules.

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