Category Archives: Pennsylvania 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.

4 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

HB 80 Litigation – Dechert, LLP Representing the Cities Pro-Bono?

As many are aware, yesterday,  Senator Daylin Leach, Senator Vincent J. Hughes, Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Representative Cherelle L. Parker, Representative Edward C. Gainey, the City of Philadelphia, the City of Pittsburgh, and the City of Lancaster filed suit in the Commonwealth Court against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Speaker of the House Samuel H. Smith, Lieutenant Governor James F. Cawley, and Governor Tom Corbett regarding the constitutionality of HB 80. The docket number is 585 MD 2014.

Representing Senator Farnese, Senator Hughes, Representative Parker, Representative Gainey, the City of Pittsburgh, City of Philadelphia and the City of Lancaster are attorneys Martin Black and Robert Masterson of the law firm of Dechert, LLP, which is allegedly handling the matter pro-bono. (The City of Philadelphia is additionally being represented by attorneys Richard Feder and Eleanor Ewing of Philadelphia’s law department). Per LancasterOnline, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray informed Reporter Bernard Harris that “Lancaster’s participation in the lawsuit will not cost city taxpayers any money, Gray said. The law firm taking the case is not charging a fee.

Anyone seeking legal representation in the future should be aware of Dechert, LLP’s position in this matter and should consider whether its views align with yours.

UPDATE: A copy of the Petition can be found here.

2 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

HB 80 Signed by Governor Corbett

Yesterday, Governor Corbett signed HB 80, which amended 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120, our firearm preemption statute, in several keys ways. Section (A.2) now provides:

A person adversely affected by an ordinance, a resolution, regulation, rule, practice or any other action promulgated or enforced by a county, municipality or township prohibited under subsection (a) or 53 Pa.C.S. § 2962(g) (relating to limitation on municipal powers) may seek declaratory or injunctive relief and actual damages in an appropriate court.

Further Section (A.3) provides:

Reasonable expenses.–A court shall award reasonable expenses to a person adversely affected in an action under subsection (a.2) for any of the following:

(1) A final determination by the court is granted in
favor of the person adversely affected.

(2) The regulation in question is rescinded, repealed or
otherwise abrogated after suit has been filed under
subsection (a.2) but before the final determination by the
court.

The definition section now includes:

“Person adversely affected.” Any of the following:

(1) A resident of this Commonwealth who may legally possess a firearm under Federal and State law.

(2) A person who otherwise has standing under the laws of this Commonwealth to bring an action under subsection (a.2).

(3) A membership organization, in which a member is a person described under paragraph (1) or (2).

“Reasonable expenses.” The term includes, but is not limited to, attorney fees, expert witness fees, court costs and compensation for loss of income.

These changes are substantial, as they now provide the ability to sue a municipality that promulgates an unlawful ordinance, even in the absence of enforcement, and obtain attorney fees and costs, even where the municipality rescinds its unlawful ordinance after the lawsuit is filed but before a final determination is made. These changes were in a large part related to the litigation that I handled in Dillon v. City of Erie and the accompanying criminal matters, where the City of Erie’s ordinance was found to be unlawful, yet the Erie 8 (as they became known), were required to defend against the criminal charges, without right to recoup their attorney fees, under Section 6120.

Although it is a misdemeanor of the 1st degree, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6119, to even promulgate such an unlawful ordinance, most municipalities thumbed their nose at the Commonwealth by enacting such illegal ordinances. Now, both aggrieved individuals and organizations can bring suit against these municipalities to force them to comply with the law. It is unfortunate that it has come to this – where local government can violate state law, without any concern for prosecution; yet, the individual, if he or she violates the municipalities illegal ordinance, must fear prosecution. With Governor Corbett’s signature on HB 80, now municipalities can be held accountable for their actions.

2 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Settlement APPROVED in Philadelphia Class Action Lawsuit Regarding Disclosure of Confidential LTCF Information

I am proud to announce that today, Judge Jacqueline Allen signed a Final Order approving the settlement that was reached with the City of Philadelphia in the matter of John Doe, et al.,  v. City of Philadelphia, et al, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas docket no. 121203785, stemming from the City’s posting and disclosing of what we alleged was confidential license to carry firearms (LTCF) information. You can download a copy of the original Press Release related to the Preliminary Approval – here. This was a collaborative effort between Benjamin R. Picker, Esquire of McCausland Keen & Buckman, Jonathan Goldstein, Esquire of McNelly & Goldstein, LLC, Jon Mirowitz, Esquire, and myself.

As a result of the Settlement, the City will pay $1.425 million to the class and will be separately responsible for the costs of administering the settlement. Further, and of similar importance, the City has agreed to a number of policy changes, which can be found starting on page 11 of the Settlement Agreement, including:

  1. Not to disclose LTCF applicant information either electronically or in-person;
  2. Annual training of the Philadelphia Police Department and Philadelphia License and Inspection Board of Review on the confidentiality of LTCF applicant information;
  3. Customer service training for the Philadelphia Gun Permit Unit;
  4. Posting a copy of the LTCF Application Notice on its website and where LTCF applications and appeals can be submitted or obtained, as well as, providing a copy to anyone who has his/her LTCF denied or revoked;
  5. The City will not require references on the LTCF application and will not contact any references listed on the LTCF application;
  6. The City will not require lawful immigrants or US Citizens with a US Passport to provide naturalization papers;
  7. The City will not require any applicant to disclose whether he/she owns a firearm during the LTCF application process;
  8. The City will not deny an application because the applicant answered “no” to any question regarding whether the applicant had been charged/convicted of any crime where the applicant received a pardon or expungement from the charge or conviction;
  9. The City will process all LTCF applications within 45 calendar days;
  10. The City will remit $15.00 to any applicant who is denied within 20 days;
  11. The City will not require LTCF applicants or holders to disclose to law enforcement that they have an LTCF, that they are carrying a firearm or that they have a firearm in the vehicle; and
  12. The City will not confiscate an LTCF or firearm, unless there is probable cause that the LTCF or firearm is evidence of a crime. In the event an LTCF or firearm is confiscated, the officer must immediately provide a property receipt, which shall include the pertinent information

A copy of the signed and filed Settlement Agreement can be downloaded – here. As the Final Order has not yet been docketed, it is not currently available for download. A copy of the Second Amended Complaint can be downloaded – here.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

New DUI Law That Affects Firearms Rights

I previously blogged about the Monumental Firearms Law related Decision from the Superior Court in relation to DUI. In Commonwealth v. Musau, 2013 PA Super 159, the Superior Court held that an individual who, during a first or second DUI, refused to provide blood or breath testing, could only be punished by a maximum of six (6) months in jail, although it is graded as a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. As the maximum sentence that could be imposed was six months, although graded as a misdemeanor of the 1st degree, such a conviction would not trigger the federal disability, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 922.

Today, Governor Corbett signed SB 1239, which effectively changed section 3802, so that the maximum sentence that can be imposed upon an individual who, during a first or second DUI, refuses to provide blood or breath testing, is five years, which consistent with most misdemeanors of the first degree. Accordingly, those individual who are now convicted under the amended DUI Code will be prohibited under 18 U.S.C. 922 from possessing or purchasing a firearm, regardless of the sentence imposed.

Of course, there are constitutional questions of whether an individual’s Right to Keep and Bear Arms can be infringed in relation to non-violent misdemeanor crimes. If you have been convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor offense and wish to discuss what options you have to petition the federal courts or are facing a DUI related to a refusal to submit to chemical testing, contact us today.

3 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Call to Action – HB 1243 – Strengthening Preemption

I just received notice from Pennsylvania Representative Stephen Bloom that HB 1243, just passed its third consideration in the House by a vote of 143-54. There are only several days left to get this through the Senate and we’re going to need YOUR help!

Emails are insufficient. We’re being outnumbered by 3-1 in calls to Representatives and Senators. We need to change this.

Personal contact by phone calls and snail mail (faxes) are much more effective to get your message to our Senators and then NEED to hear from us.

The contact info for Senate Judiciary Committee is here.

Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R) chairman JC (717) 787-6599 sgreenleaf@pasen.gov
(note Greenleaf is up for re election in 2014 IF Greenleaf is your senator twist arm as required to run HB 1243)

Senator Joseph Scarnati (R) leader of senate – President Pro Tempore (717) 787-7084 everyone must call or fax Senator Scarnati
He is very supportive on Second Amendment issues…. he still needs to hear from US!
jscarnati@pasen.gov

Senator Gene Yaw (R) (717) 787-3280 gyaw@pasen.gov

Senator John Gordner (R) (717) 787-8928 jgordner@pasen.gov

Senator John Eichelberger (R) (717) 787-5490 jeichelberger@pasen.gov

Senator John Rafferty (R) (717) 787-1398 jrafferty@pasen.gov

Senator Randy Vulakovich (R) (717) 787-6538 rvulakovich@pasen.gov

Senator Richard Alloway (R) (717) 787-4651 alloway@pasen.gov

Senator Lisa Boscola (D) (717) 787-4236 boscola@pasenate.com

Senator Andrew Dinniman (D) (717) 787-5709 andy@pasenate.com

Senator Dominic Pileggi (R) (717) 787-4712 swings lots of weight in senate from holding past leadership position of senate dpileggi@pasen.gov

These below on JC probably will not listen unless they are your senators, expect them to vote against HB 1243.

Stress the Rule of Law.

Senator Michael Stack (D) (717) 787-9608 stack@pasenate.com

Senator Daylin Leach (D) (717) 787-5544 dleach@pasenate.com minority chair of JC – past ceasefirepa endorsed candidate going to probably be one of the most vocal against HB 1243 on committee

Senator Wayne Fontana (D) (717) 787-5300 fontana@pasenate.com up for re election in 2014 but has no opponent = no fear factor from voters

Senator Lawrence Farnese (D) (717) 787-5662 farnese@pasenate.com past ceasefirepa endorsed candidate

CALL and/or FAX senators especially Scarnati, Greenleaf, Pileggi (plus others listed) and ask them to pass HB 1243 without any amendments.

Also ask your senator to bug leadership to run HB 1243 as a clean bill

HB 1243 will take at least 3 days in senate for passage.

Getting HB 1243 passed is still do able, but it’s going to take everyone making the extra effort to get this passed in the short time left. Governor Corbett will sign this bill if placed on his desk!

Senator Scarnati as leader of the senate can add more session days IF its required and most importantly IF we make our voices loud enough!

We have the votes for passage in the senate is just a matter of making them feel the heat and making HB 1243 a priority for quick passage with such short session time left.

PLEASE do your part and get HB 1243 passed by the Senate as a clean bill.

Thanks to FOAC (Firearm Owners Against Crime) for the above information.

2 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Putting Attorney General Kane’s Legal Opinion to Good Use

Today, utilizing Attorney General Kane’s August 5, 2014, Legal Opinion Letter, I submitted letters to a number of Commonwealth agencies requesting that they rescind their regulations in relation to possession of firearms, which are inconsistent with Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code, referred to as Title 18. Those letters include:

  1. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) – here.
  2. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) – here.
  3. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) – here.
  4. Pennsylvania Department of State – here.

As I hear back from these agencies as to what action they will be taking, I will let our readers know.

6 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law