Several months ago, a number of bills were submitted by Members of the General Assembly, seeking to prohibit the private transfer of rifles and shotguns – thereby, requiring that all transfers or purchases of any type of firearm, go through a Federal Firearms Licensee – and more recently, Governor Wolf called upon the General Assembly to pass the legislation, which, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would absolutely preclude the Amish from obtaining any type of firearm, due to their closely-held religious convictions, which preclude their picture being taken.
Specifically, House Bill 1400, offered by Representative James Santora (R) with 73 sponsors, and House Bill 2249, offered by Representative Thomas Murt (R) with 17 sponsors, seek to preclude the private party sale of a rifle or shotgun, while House Bill 2251, offered by Representative Thomas Murt (R) with 8 sponsors, seeks to preclude the purchase of ammunition, except from a Federal Firearm Licensee or gun range and only after a background check is performed. Of course, as there is no way for an entity, absent a Federal Firearms License, to perform a background check, this means that the inclusion of gun range is dubious, as it will have to have a Federal Firearms License to perform the background check.
Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(1)(C), a Federal Firearm Licensee is barred from selling or transferring a firearm to an individual, unless the individual can produce a “valid identification document (as defined in section 1028(d) of this title) of the transferee containing a photograph of the transferee.”
Due to Pennsylvania having the second largest Amish population in the U.S. and the Amish’s closely-held religious beliefs, pursuant to Exodus 20:4, that preclude the taking of their photograph, the General Assembly, being acutely aware of the federal requirement that an individual produce photo-identification when purchasing a firearm from a federal firearms licensee, not only provided an exemption for private party sales of rifles and shotguns in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111, but also, exempted those members with closely-held religious beliefs from the photo ID requirement under state law and even provided for photo-less driver licenses and licenses to carry firearms. See, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(b)(2), 67 Pa.Code § 73.3(d)(4), and 37 Pa.Code 33.102.
However, if H.B. 1400 and H.B. 2249 are enacted, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1, et seq., the Amish will be precluded from purchasing or having any form of firearm transferred to them, because they will have to obtain the firearm through a Federal Firearms Licensee, which will require that they produce photo-identification. Similarly, issue are likely to arise in relation to HB 2251, as it mandates that a background check be performed, which means that the entity will have to be a Federal Firearms Licensee. Moreover, a search/query of the NICS database would be an abuse of the NICS system, as federal law does not require a background check for the purchase of ammunition and NICS can only be searched/queried for lawful purposes permitted by federal law.
It is truly sad to see Members of our General Assembly seeking to discriminate against those with closely-held religious convictions. Please take some time out of your day to contact your State Legislators and let them know that you oppose these bills and any other bills that seek to discriminate against those with closely-held religious beliefs.
If you or someone you know has been precluded from obtaining firearms or ammunition as a result of your closely-held religious convictions, contact FICG today to discuss your options.
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