Some Pennsylvania Sheriffs Violating the Law and Their Oath by Refusing to Process License to Carry Firearm Applications and Subjecting Individuals to Potential Prosecution

Recently, due to COVID-19, a number of Pennsylvania Sheriff Departments, in violation of the law and their oaths, have notified residents that they will no longer process license to carry firearm (LTCF) applications, including renewals; thereby, preventing individuals who do not have an LTCF from being able to defend themselves in a time of need and subjecting those who do have an LTCF, but whose LTCF lapses, to criminal prosecution.

Let’s start with those who do not have an LTCF. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109 sets forth the application process and the criteria for eligibility of an LTCF. Nowhere within Section 6109 does it permit a sheriff to refuse to accept an LTCF application. In the absence of an LTCF, one is subject to the draconian and unconstitutional transportation restrictions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6106; whereby, an individual can only go directly to and from very specific and limited locations. If you violate Section 6106 by, for example, stopping for a coffee on your way to or from the range, you are subjected to the criminal penalty of either a misdemeanor of the first degree (if you were otherwise eligible for an LTCF) or a felony of third degree (if you were not eligible for an LTCF). Regardless of which you are convicted of, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20), you will be prohibited for life from being able to purchase, possess, and utilize firearms and ammunition, because even a misdemeanor of the first degree can be punished by up to 5 years in jail, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 106(b)(6).

But open carry is lawful, right? First, open carry is not explicitly mentioned as an exception to our draconian transportation laws. Second, due to Governor Wolf issuing the opioid proclamation, as well as, a state of emergency regarding COVID-19, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S § 6107, an individual is prohibited from carrying any firearm on “public streets or upon any public property” during the state of emergency, unless one has an LTCF. I detailed all of these issues in my prior article, Lose Your Second Amendment Rights if You Violate Section 6107 as a Result of Governor Wolf’s Opioid Proclamation.

Thus, if you do not have an LTCF, your right, in public, to defend yourself is virtually eliminated, even though the U.S. Supreme Court in D.C. v Heller defined “bear arms” as to “wear, bear, or carry … upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose … of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.” D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 584 (2008). This is why it is imperative that the General Assembly immediately enact HB-1412 (permitting constitutional carry), HB-1747 (generally repealing 18 Pa.C.S. 6107 and removing “firearms” from 35 Pa.C.S. § 7301(f)(8)), and HB-303 (generally repealing the unconstitutional transportation laws).

But you don’t have to worry about the above because you have your LTCF, right? Well, that’s true unless your LTCF is set to expire, while your county sheriff is refusing to process LTCF applications. But Josh, my sheriff told me that there is a 6 month grace period, so I’m fine! If only it were that simple…

Although 18 Pa.C.S. § 6106(b)(12) provides an “exception,” the Superior Court has turned that “exception” into a “defense.” Specifically, Section 6106(b)(12) provides:

(b)  Exceptions.–The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to: … (12) A person who has a lawfully issued license to carry a firearm pursuant to section 6109 (relating to licenses) and that said license expired within six months prior to the date of arrest and that the individual is otherwise eligible for renewal of the license.

Unfortunately, the Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Anderson held that “exceptions” were “defenses” to prosecution – meaning the Commonwealth can prosecute you and during trial, you can raise an “exception” as a defense to prosecution. As I detailed in my blog article Devastating En Banc Decision Regarding Act 235 Security Guards,

However, in a mind-boggling evisceration of the statutory language, the court goes on to say that the “exceptions” found in Section 6106(b), even though the statutory text states that subsection (a) shall not apply, are defenses that must be proven at trial. This is truly a manifest injustice, as the General Assembly is acutely aware of how to draft provisions that are “defenses,” as evidenced by 18 Pa.C.S. 912(c), and those that are immunities or exceptions.

Based on the absurdity of this decision, for example, now law enforcement officers, who are found in a courthouse possessing a firearm, are to be prosecuted and have to prove, as a defense, that the firearm was possessed in “lawful performance of official duties” because Section 913(c) makes such possession an “exception.” Even more obscene, the same would be true of “constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen of this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, or other law-enforcement officers,” since this is an “exception” found in Section 6106(b).

Thus, sheriffs who are refusing to issue renewals to residents whose LTCF is set to expire are subjecting those individuals to criminal prosecution.

But Josh, COVID-19 is serious and we need to protect our LEOs! While I am not going to address the seriousness or lack-of-seriousness of COVID-19 and agree that we must protect our LEOs, there are safeguard practices that could be instituted, as some sheriff offices have already done, which permit individuals to obtain/renew LTCFs while generally protecting our sheriffs and their deputies. For example, in Armstrong County, Sheriff Rupert placed the following on the website:

Firearms Application Renewal
ATTENTON: Due to the COVID-19 virus, we will processing ALL License to Carry applications through the mail ONLY! This will be effective immediately and last until May 31, 2020.  Once you are approved, we will notify you by phone.  After said time, we will be doing the photos and signatures Monday – Friday to get everyone caught up and a new License to Carry printed.  As of June 1, 2020, we will be processing applications like normal. Applications are available below or at he front doors of our courthouse. Please keep checking the webpage for any updates. Thank-you for your understanding in this matter. 

When sending your application through the mail please include the following with your application:

1. Copy of your driver’s license

2. Check or money order for $20.00, made out to “Armstrong County Sheriff”

Many other sheriffs, for example in Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence counties, have continued, in honoring their oath and the law, to issue LTCFs, without implementing any regulations. The Beaver County Sheriff took a slightly different approach by accepting LTCF applications by appointment only.

Thus, I am calling upon all Pennsylvania sheriffs to uphold their oaths and the law by continuing to issue LTCFs, as the refusal to issue such, is placing your residents in harms way and potentially subjecting them to serious bodily injury or death during this time of need.

For those who are quarantining yourselves, please take a few minutes and contact your elected officials and demand that they immediately enact HB-1412 (permitting constitutional carry), HB-1747 (generally repealing 18 Pa.C.S. 6107 and removing “firearms” from 35 Pa.C.S. § 7301(f)(8)),  HB-303 (generally repealing the unconstitutional transportation laws), and  HB 1066 (preempting local regulation of firearms and providing for attorney fees and costs)!

If you or someone you know has had their rights violated by a Government agency, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.

 


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

10 thoughts on “Some Pennsylvania Sheriffs Violating the Law and Their Oath by Refusing to Process License to Carry Firearm Applications and Subjecting Individuals to Potential Prosecution

  1. Hey Jishua, if I catch someone trying to steal on my property  what then? Also have anything on the court case? Regards DanSent from my MetroPCS 4G LTE Android Device

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  2. I am happy to report that we here in Fayette county have a good Sheriff and staff. I was able to renew my LCTF yesterday (3/18/2020) in person at the courthouse in Uniontown.

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  3. Can you me more specific in advising what “law” sheriffs are violating? I don’t read where any County sheriffs are 100% refusing to process carry permits. So there may be a delay in getting your permit. Tough. If you were so concerned and serious about carrying concealed, you would have applied for and already had your permit before this crisis began.

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    1. Being that advocacy groups are publishing the names and addresses of permit holders, many folks choose not to get a permit during normal times.

      In an emergency with LEO possibly out of commission and National Guard focused on urban areas and highways..you need a permit to be safe during transit. PA law makes it a crime to carry a gun anywhere but to a range and a house. They have wiggle room to detain of no permit. And they will use it if times are rough and they want to.

      Montgomery county Sherrif Kilkenny has suspended permitting under April at earliest. This is against the law as the government is open. They write a restrictive law and then tell everyone they are violating it in an emergency. This also smacks of racism, as Norristown is the big crime area where the Sherrif is based.

      There were lines at all the gun stores in Norristown and surrounding towns. These police and sherrifs get sick and the whole area will be a free for all at the local stores.

      Hopefully this states sensible sherrifs will man up and reach out to Kilkenny and explain he must allow law abiding people to protect their families and their lives in this national emergency.

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      1. Please show me where “advocacy groups are publishing the names and addresses of permit holders.” Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) it is a felony of the third degree and pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(i) there are civil penalties, including attorney fees and costs for any disclosure of license to carry firearms applicant information. I’ve successfully litigated several class actions against Philly when it disclosed such information

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      2. I was referring to attempts made, and you refer to one yourself. Would appreciate some information for your supporters regarding this take from RCFP.org , which clearly states the name and permit type are public information. Only the address and private info is restricted.

        Pennsylvania

        While the Law does not specifically address gun permits, gun permits, with certain personal information redacted pursuant to 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.708(b)(6), are likely public records under the Law.

        Under the old act, certain information in a gun permit application is public, e.g., name, race, reason for requesting the license, personal references, and answers to background questions. Other information – e.g., home addresses, telephone numbers and social security numbers – is protected from disclosure under the law’s personal security exception.  See Pa. State Educ. Ass’n. v. Commonwealth, 148 A.3d 142 (Pa. 2016)

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  4. Thank you for these updates. Wolf is drunk with power, and now more than ever we need to be vigilant to prevent oversteps.

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  5. Hello Josh, I am new to Bucks county and would like to get my concealed carry permit. Perhaps you could answer a couple questions for me. I have 2 marijuana arrests from over 20 years ago both simple possession. One was from when I was still a juvenile (17 years old) and other when I was 20 (42 now). The adult arrest was ultimately dismissed through pre-trial intervention and both were in New Jersey where I am from. I have had jobs that required a FBI background check and only the adult arrest shows up as dismissed. I obviously want to be completely truthful on my application will either of these preclude me from being approved? I appreciate any info or feedback you can give me on this matter. Thank you!

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  6. Looks like Sheriffs are getting the message. Last week, Lancaster County President Judge David Ashworth had ordered the indefinite suspension of both new and renewing LTCF’s. That has been changed to by mail only, with money order only. As if in this day and age they can’t process credit cards.
    Thank you Josh, you are a true patriot !

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  7. Beware!!! Renewed my PA LTC in Chester County today. I received my renewal application back in May for a July 22nd expiration. Filled it out and immediately called to schedule an appointment due to the Covid-19 restrictions. The officer I spoke to said “Call back in July we aren’t scheduling that far out”. I told him I was concerned that it would expire. He said “We issue it the same day” and “it wont be a problem”. I called back on July 1st and asked to schedule again. To my surprise, the officer told me the first available appointment was August 25. I told him of my exchange with the officer back in May that I would expire on July 22nd. He told me “the earliest appointment is August 25th”. OK. So today I go to the court house with my application filled out, have it processed and my picture taken. The officer then hands me my new PA LTC. I look down to review the details and notice the “Reason to Cary” is now listed as “Target Shooting”. I tell the officer that I’ve had a LTC in PA for 25 years and it has always listed “Self Defense”. He said “That’s weird, I didn’t change that”. I showed him my expired LTC with self defense listed. I asked and he printed me a new one with “Self Defense” as the reason to carry but I have to think this was not a “weird mistake”. I think they are trying to limit the LTC to specific reasons (target shooting)

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