Be careful if you’re pointing your fingers in the shape of a gun in Pennsylvania because a court just ruled that the hand gesture is a crime. According to The Washington Post, Stephen Kirchner pointed gun fingers at his neighbor and an appeals court has found that the misdemeanor offense could have provoked “a dangerous altercation.”
Kirchner was outside walking with Elaine Natore when they passed a neighbor, Josh Klingseisen. Natore had a “no contact” order against Klingseisen and the exchange quickly turned south. Kirchner made eye contact with Klingseisen and then raised his arm and “made a recoil motion as if to suggest he had shot him.”
Kirchner was charged with criminal disorderly conduct after a neighbor reported the event, saying the exchange made her uncomfortable. Kirchner has been fighting the conviction for more than a year. This week, a Pennsylvania state appeals court ruled that the 64-year-old’s hand motion “served no legitimate purpose, and recklessly risked provoking a dangerous altercation.”
Judge Maria McLaughlin wrote an opinion earlier this week saying that the behavior had caused a potentially threatening situation.
“We conclude that there was sufficient evidence that Kirchner’s act of mimicking his shooting Klingseisen created a hazardous condition,” the court wrote.
While the Kirchner says that the motion was just a gesture and didn’t constitute any public harm, the court disagreed. The fact that a neighbor felt compelled to report the exchange was a factor in the judge’s decision.
“Kirchner acted with a reckless disregard of creating a risk of public alarm, as evidenced by the fact that an eyewitness on a neighboring property contacted 911 because Kirchner’s actions caused her to feel insecure,” the court wrote.
He pointed a finger gun at his neighbor. It’s a crime, Pennsylvania court rules. https://t.co/Hw1dGbjNmB— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 30, 2019
Finger-pointing in the shape of a gun has been ruled a crime in other areas as well. In Florida, a court ruled that the motion constituted a crime.
“As almost everyone who was ever a child can testify, no one has ever been killed or injured by forming fingers into the shape of a gun and dropping the hammer [thumb],” the public defender argued.
But the court ruled that pointing a finger gun at an officer wasn’t protected as free speech under the First Amendment.
In May, another Florida man was arrested for making finger guns when people were walking by, and an Ohio man was arrested last year for making the motion at a person who was in a car in front of him.