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COMMONWEALTH v. POPE (03/25/74)

decided: March 25, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT,
v.
POPE



Appeal from order of Superior Court, affirming order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Jan. T., 1970, No. 786, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Phillip Pope.

COUNSEL

Louis A. Perez, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him David Richman, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Mike Hanford, Assistant Defender, with him John W. Packel, Assistant Defender, and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 455 Pa. Page 386]

The prosecution of Phillip Pope for violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act raises the narrow questions (1) whether the unlicensed carrying in Philadelphia of a rifle with a 22-inch barrel constitutes a violation of the Act, and (2) if it does, whether appellee was properly indicted for this offense. The trial court construed section 4628(e.2) of the Uniform Firearms Act*fn1 as proscribing only the carrying of rifles with barrels measuring less than 15 inches, and sustained Pope's demurrer. On appeal, an equally-divided Superior Court affirmed.*fn2 This Court granted the Commonwealth's petition for allowance of appeal.*fn3 We now reverse.

[ 455 Pa. Page 387]

I.

The statute under which appellee was indicted, a 1968 amendment to the 1939 Uniform Firearms Act, provides: "No person shall carry a firearm, rifle or shotgun at any time upon the public streets or upon any public property in a city of the first class . . . ."*fn4 The prosecution's evidence shows that appellee was openly carrying a rifle with a 22-inch barrel on the public streets of Philadelphia, a city of the first class.

In the 1939 Uniform Firearms Act, the General Assembly declared criminal the concealed carrying of "firearms." A "firearm" is statutorily defined as "any pistol or revolver with a barrel less than twelve inches, any shotgun with a barrel less than twenty-four inches, or any rifle with a barrel less than fifteen inches.*fn5 The carrying of a firearm "in any vehicle or concealed on or about [one's] person, except in [one's] place of abode or fixed place of business, without a license therefor" is prohibited.*fn6

In 1968, the General Assembly created two new crimes involving the carrying of weapons. It proscribed both the open and concealed carrying of all firearms, rifles, or shotguns during "an emergency proclaimed by a municipal or state governmental executive" anywhere in the Commonwealth*fn7 or "at any time upon the public

[ 455 Pa. Page 388]

    streets or upon any public property in a city of the first class."*fn8 It was for this latter ...


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