Can Carrying a Firearm Outside One's Home or Fixed Place of Business Be Justified ?

In Commonwealth v. Lopez, 523 Pa. 126, 565 A.2d 437 (1989), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court looked to the language in section 6106(a) to determine whether the phrase "except in his place of abode or fixed place of business" is an element of the offense which the Commonwealth has the burden of proving. The court found that the Commonwealth cannot successfully prove a violation of section 6106(a) without showing that the firearm, found on the person, was carried outside the place of abode. Lopez, 523 Pa. at 129-31, 565 A.2d at 439. The court in Lopez relied on the rules of statutory construction to distinguish subsection (b) of section 6106 which specifically describes certain justifications for carrying a firearm outside one's home or fixed place of business. Id. at 131-33, 565 A.2d at 440. Unlike subsection (a), subsection (b) clearly evidences a distinction between the elements of the offense and its exception since this subsection is divorced from the definitional section of the crime. Id.