A Pennsylvania state appeals court on Tuesday upheld a man’s misdemeanor conviction for pointing a finger gun at his neighbor during an argument.
Stephen Kirchner, 64, was found guilty of disorderly conduct and ordered to pay a $100 fine plus court costs, WGAL reported. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that his gun-like gesture “served no legitimate purpose, and recklessly risked provoking a dangerous altercation.”
“We conclude that there was sufficient evidence that Kirchner’s act of mimicking his shooting [his neighbor Josh] Klingseisen created a hazardous condition,” Judge Maria McLaughlin wrote in the Tuesday opinion.
Kirchner had fought the case for more than a year. He argued that his actions were too minimal to be considered criminal and that he had no interest to cause “public alarm” or create “hazardous conditions.”
However, his attorney told The Associated Press they did not plan to appeal after the Tuesday ruling.
According to court documents, Kirchner made the offending gesture on June 7, 2018, while walking past Klingseisen’s house with another neighbor, Elaine Natore. The two men locked eyes across Klingseisen lawn as part of a publicly unknown feud that also involved Natore.
Kirchner testified that Klingseisen flipped him off “with both hands,” so he simply “returned fire,” so to speak. The incident was captured by a surveillance camera that Klingseisen had installed at his home because of the bad blood with his neighbors.
Klingseisen said Kirchner’s finger gun, which according to the court was seen recoiling, made him feel “extremely threatened,” prompting him to call 911. An eyewitness, who also called the police, said she saw Kirchner, who was wearing shorts and flip-flops, “put his finger up like he was going to shoot” the neighbor.
'Gun-like hand gesture’ deemed crime by Pennsylvania court: https://bit.ly/2HtDT1m
Posted by WGAL News Channel 8 Susquehanna Valley, Pa. on Wednesday, August 28, 2019
More than just Stephen Kirchner and his finger gun
According to the Washington Post, courts have repeatedly found people guilty of finger-gun-related crimes. Last year, a 58-year-old Ohio man was arrested on an aggravated menacing charge for allegedly making a finger gun at the driver in front of him, causing the man to fear he would be shot, the Mansfield News Journal reported.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, school administrators began disciplining students for the use of imaginary guns and other weapons. In one case in Virginia, an 8-year-old boy pointed a finger gun at his friend in the hallway and was suspended for “threatening to harm himself or others.”
A rash of high-profile mass shootings in recent years have only increased calls for regulation of gun ownership as well as of “gun culture.” But gun rights advocates have argued that the attention given to statistically rare events is causing unwarranted panic.
The extent of such fears was reportedly on display this week when Nate Myers, a 16-year-old junior at Loveland High School in Colorado was suspended indefinitely after posting videos to social media of him and his mother enjoying a day at the firing range.
Although police investigated the Myers and determined they had done nothing wrong or illegal, officials at Loveland High School deemed the teen a threat and refused to allow him to return to classes. His mother, Justine Myers, was told the only way to appeal the decision was to attend a “threat assessment hearing” where she could make the case for her son’s innocence.