Category Archives: Firearms Law

Hunters, Landowners and Permission to Hunt

There are two kinds of property to hunt on, those which are public and those which are not. Private property offers a number of advantages over public, mainly that the landowner controls who can and cannot hunt on it.

So how does one obtain permission to hunt private property in Pennsylvania? It’s simple actually, you just need to ask the landowner. While the permission doesn’t have to be written, conventional wisdom dictates getting it in writing is best for you. It gives you something to point to if at a later time the landowner claims you did not have permission to hunt on their property.

I have created an agreement which a hunter, trapper or fisherman can bring to the landowner and have them sign in order to enjoy the use of their land for a period of time that the two parties agree to. Are you not the person looking to gain permission but give it? The document creates protections for both parties. Landowners are increasingly becoming more concerned with liability of others on their land and this kind of agreement might be the deciding factor which allows you to start or continue hunting on their property.

If you are interested in obtaining a permission to hunt agreement, contact me today at 610-845-3803!

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C&R Licensee applications, FFL Licensee applications and Responsible Persons Questionnaire

ATF recently posted two notices in the Federal Register. One stated that they would be combining ATF Form 7 (5310.12) and ATF Form 7CR (5310.16), the applications for an FFL and Curios and Relics license, respectively. The other notice is for the creation of a Responsible Persons Questionnaire (RPQ) for use with the new proposed form. I’ve included both proposed forms at the bottom of this blog post.

A poster on AR15.com stated that if the proposed changes go through “C&R applicants will not only still need to get CLEO signoff, but they will also need to submit fingerprints and photographs.” In the post, he includes a quote from an e-mail he received from ATF about the proposed changes.

18 U.S.C. §923(a) which deals with individuals engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms, or importing or manufacturing ammunition, specifically proscribes that an individual applying must submit fingerprints and photographs. §923(b) which addresses individuals obtaining a license as a collector omits that requirement. While the law does not have any specific requirement, it is not outside the realm of possible that ATF could enter rulemaking to require that. That is not the case currently.

Looking at the proposed changes, there is no indication that ATF intends for C&R applicants to submit fingerprints and photographs, which is contrary to the post on AR15.com. Nevertheless, on December 10th, I e-mailed Tracey Robertson from ATF to inquire as to whether ATF intended for a C&R applicant to submit fingerprints and photographs with their application. She responded later that day stating “Photo and fingerprint card are not required for C&R licenses. This will not change with the proposed new forms.” She went on to say that the changes are to combine the forms in order to make the processing more efficient and eliminate common mistakes made by individuals.

After obtaining a copy of the proposed forms, it is evident there is no requirement for C&R applicants to include photographs or fingerprints. The proposed RPQ does indeed have a place for an individual’s photograph. The box to the right does include the instructions that all RPQs, fingerprint cards, photographs and application fees should be mailed to the address below. While at first glance it might seem that it is required for all license applications, the form includes, in rather conspicuous bold font, that Type 03 license applications (those for C&Rs) are NOT required to submit a fingerprint or photograph. The proposed form for the replacement of the current Form 7 and Form 7CR also states in Instruction 6 “A fingerprint card and photograph are not required if applying for a Type 03 license only.”

Nevertheless, there is a problem with ATF’s proposed changes. As the Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG)® is often on the forefront of industry happenings (such as the blog post which created a number of applications for Form 1 machine guns that has now gained national attention, ATF 41P commentary, etc.), it came to our attention that ATF’s proposed regulation is in contradiction with 18 U.S.C. §926(b) which requires 90 days notice before proscribing a rule or regulation. These proposed changes have only given individuals 60 days notice to comment.

Proposed Form 7

Proposed RPQ

 

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Filed under ATF, Firearms Law, Uncategorized

FICG Files Letter with Borough of Doylestown to Rescind Its Unlawful Firearm Ordinances

Today, Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG)®, a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., filed a letter in support of the Borough of Doylestown rescinding its illegal firearm ordinances on behalf of American Gun Owners Alliance (AMGOA), Concerned Gun Owners of PA (CGOPA), Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), Pennsylvanians For Self Protection (PA4SP) and several Borough residents.

As many of our readers are aware, with the passage of HB 80, municipalities will soon be civilly liable for violations of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120, in addition to being criminally liable. As a result, the Borough of Doylestown is considering rescinding its illegal firearm ordinances at its meeting on Wednesday, December 10th. Unfortunately, Borough President Ansinn has publicly mocked HB 80 by stating “we’re basically being forced to repeal these laws at gun point. Be sure to ‘thank’ your local state legislators for this ‘common sense’ reform.” It is truly unfortunate that any publicly elected official would support the violation of the Commonwealth’s Crimes Code.

I will keep you advised as I learn what action the Borough of Doylestown will take; however, if you or someone you know is being unlawfully prosecuted pursuant to an unlawful municipal ordinance relating to the regulation of a firearm, please feel free to contact us at 888-313-0416 or info@PrinceLaw.com, so we can discuss your legal options.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Can I carry a firearm for self-defense while hunting?

A common question for those who have recently moved to the Commonwealth or are new hunters is “Can I carry a firearm for self-defense while hunting?” The answer is yes!

Section 2525 of the PA Game code provides that: “It is lawful for…any person who possesses a valid license to carry a firearm…to be in possession of a loaded or unloaded firearm while engaged in any activity regulated by this title.”

Do not confuse this with being allowed to hunt game with that firearm or ammunition that is otherwise not permitted by the code. It is only for your own personal protection.

Have any questions about the game laws in Pennsylvania or have had an interaction with the PA Game Commission this season and want legal representation? Give us a call anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416.

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Opening Day for Antlered Deer in Pennsylvania

Today marks opening day for antlered deer here in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of hunters take to the woods to fill their freezers for the year to come or to find that trophy deer. Every year, individuals are charged with violating the game code.

I previously blogged that the PA Game Commission Officers (GCOs) and Wildlife Conservation Officers (WLCOs) would be allowed to utilize body cameras after taking a course approved by the Pennsylvania State Police. This takes effect on December 31, 2014, which means that come January 1, 2015, GCOs and WLCOs MAY be equipped with the ability to record interactions between themselves and hunters. As deer season doesn’t end until January 24, 2015 this means that there is the potential for an interaction with GCOs and WLCOs wearing body cameras.

What should you do if you are stopped by a GCO or WLCO? Be courteous and polite but do not be intimidated by threats of authority. If you are uncomfortable answering their questions, tell them that you would like to consult with an attorney prior to answering any more questions.

As previously blogged about, Jack Coble was able to successfully challenge his conviction under 34 Pa. C.S. § 2126(a)(6) which makes it unlawful for a person to “refuse to answer, without evasion, upon request of any representative of the commission, any pertinent question pertaining to the killing or wounding of any game or wildlife killed or wounded, or the disposition of the entire carcass or any part thereof,” by asserting it was a violation of his 5th Amendment and Article 1 Section 9 right against self incrimination.

While the court opinion and order were limited to Coble’s particular circumstance, the lack of opposition by the Assistant District Attorney and the lack of intervention by the PA Game Commission and Attorney General’s Office seems to suggest that an individual charged under this subsection could make a similar successful argument. We believe that individuals confronted by GCOs and WLCOs have a constitutional right against self incrimination and as such are entitled to remain silent and/or consult an attorney.

Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be confusing and sometimes even frightening. If you have an interaction with the PA Game Commission this season and want legal representation, don’t hesitate to give us a call anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416. Prince Law Offices is dedicated to protecting all of your constitutional rights!

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Black Aces Tactical, the SigTac SB15 arm brace and ATF’s misguided determination letter

On November 14th Black Aces Tactical received a determination letter from the Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch (FTISB) regarding their recent submission of what at first glance appears to be a SBS or AOW. Black Aces Tactical was hoping to have the item classified as a “firearm” thus removing it from the purview of NFA entirely.

ftb1  The SigTac SB15 arm brace has caused quite the controversy since its introduction and much to the delight of those in states where SBRs are illegal and those who don’t wish to go through the process of obtaining a NFA firearm. Some contend that the arm brace is a “loophole” or a way to “cheat” the system but the law supports ATF’s determination that the arm brace was never designed or redesigned with the intent for it to be shoulder fired. The determination letter that accompanies each arm brace states that “We find that the device is not designed or intended to fire a weapon from the shoulder.”

atfsig  In March of 2014, Sergeant Joe Bradley of the Greenwood Police Department received a reply from the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) in response to his question which asked, if an AR-15 type pistol was fired from the shoulder, would it cause the pistol to be reclassified as a Short Barreled Rifle. FTB responded that it would not and that it had previously determined that firing a weapon from a particular position (like placing the buffer tube to one’s shoulder) does not change the classification of the weapon. It further asserts that ATF did not classify the SigTac SB15 arm brace as a stock so its improper usage would not change the weapons classification.

So what’s all the buzz about this new letter from the FTISB to Black Aces Tactical? Black Aces Tactical submitted a sample which they say had an overall length of 27 inches. The sample had a SigTac SB15 arm brace attached as well as a vertical foregrip to the left side. On page 3 of ATF’s response, the FTISB explains what would make a pistol an AOW but since the OAL was greater than 26 inches and NOT concealed on a person, the sample was excluded from being classified as an AOW.

sigbraceusage  FTISB classified the sample as a “firearm” as defined by the Gun Control Act of 1968 and not a “firearm” under NFA, which is what Black Aces Tactical was after. However, FTISB states that should the weapon be concealed its classification may be changed. What’s more troubling is what comes next.

“Should an individual utilize the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace on the submitted sample as a shoulder stock to fire the weapon from the shoulder, this firearm would then be classified as a “short-barreled shotgun…because the subject brace has then been made or remade, designed or redesigned from its originally intended purpose.

This seems to be a complete contradiction of its earlier determination that when shouldering an AR-15 type pistol, with or without the brace, the classification of the firearm remains the same. So what changed? Nothing.

Unfortunately for ATF, it seems to have missed an important definition in the National Firearms Act. One of the definitions of a “firearm” is a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches or a weapon made from a shotgun if the weapon has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel less than 18 inches. A shotgun is defined as “a weapon designed or redesigned…and intended to be fired from the shoulder…” Since the sample was never intended to be fired from the shoulder and is not a shotgun, then it surely cannot be a firearm under the National Firearms Act which would exclude it all together from becoming a short barreled shotgun.

Is it possible that ATF has now changed its position on the SigTac SB15 arm brace and is getting ready to issue a determination letter which would result in an individual shouldering an AR-15 type pistol with the brace converting the firearm into an illegal short barreled rifle?

If so, ATF has apparently chosen to ignore the definitions found in the National Firearms Act again. Attaching the brace to a buffer tube and shouldering it is not “making or remaking” nor is it “designed or redesigned ” from its originally intended purpose. ATF even stated in its determination letter that comes with every SigTac Brace that it “does not convert that weapon to be fired from the shoulder.” A rifle is defined as “a weapon designed or redesigned…and intended to be fired from the shoulder…” If ATF is planning to issue a determination letter similar in nature as applicable to AR-15 style pistols, ATF will have failed to reconcile that under NFA an AR-15 style pistol cannot be defined as a “firearm” as it doesn’t meet any of the criteria! An AR-15 style pistol was never a rifle and as such even with a SigTac brace attached falls outside of NFA’s regulation.

I’ve requested the first two pages of the letter along with more information about the sample which was provided to ATF for the determination. While the determination letter is specific to the sample provided, it is possible that Black Aces Tactical has opened Pandora’s box with regards to the SigTac SB15 arm brace and its future, but the law does not support the transformation that ATF suggests.

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Filed under ATF, Firearms Law

Berks County Sheriff Weaknecht No Longer Requiring References on LTCF Applications!

It was announced today that the Berks County Sheriff’s Department will no longer require references for a License to Carry Firearms (LTCF). I have long contended that requiring references on the application is a violation of the confidentiality provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i), as merely calling the reference, even without disclosing that the applicant has applied for an LTCF, is a violation of the statutory protections, as the caller would be disclosing the “name” and “identity” of the individual, as a result of the application. This issue was addressed in our Class Action against the City of Philadelphia, which resulted in the City of Philadelphia agreeing not to require references.

When Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht became aware of this issue, he determined that references should not be required on the LTCF application and accordingly, stopped requiring them, effective today. Berks County is very fortunate to have such a great Sheriff, who is open to reconsidering past positions of his Department. This isn’t the first time that he has changed his Department’s position and procedures in relation to LTCFs. Sheriff Weaknecht was the first in the Commonwealth to implement an internal appeal process for an individual whose LTCF was denied or revoked. I understand this process has been very successful and other counties have inquired of him for specifics, as they too are considering implementing an internal appeal process.  Please make sure to support Sheriff Weaknecht during his next election cycle.

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