Yesterday, during our hearing for a preliminary injunction against the Pennsylvania State Police in relation to the substantial delays in its responses to background check determinations (i.e. approvals/denials) in Firearms Owners Against Crime – Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Educational Action (FOAC-ILLEA), et al v. PSP Commissioner Evanchick, 218 MD 2022, Lieutenant Shandra Keeler, Director of the Firearms Division, testified, under oath, that they purposely do not include the time the PICS Operations Unit is closed (i.e. 10PM to 8AM) in the calculation of their average determination times provided to the General Assembly in the PSP’s annual firearm reports as required by 18 Pa.C.S. 6111.1(i). During further questioning, Lt. Keeler admitted that if a background check determination was submitted at 9:30 PM and not approved until 8:05 AM the next morning, the PSP would calculate that approval/determination time as 35 minutes, instead of 10 hrs, 35 minutes or 635 minutes. In doing so, it would appear that the PSP is violating Section 6111.1(i), as the PSP does not include a notice to the General Assembly of this practice in its annual reports. Further, she testified that the average delay time in 2019 was 15 minutes, but in 2021, it was 82 minutes – a 550% increase. She did not have information as to the average delay currently.
Lt. Keeler also testified that they have two shifts (7AM – 3PM and 2:30 – 10:30PM), whereby the first shift has double the number of PICS operators as compared to the second shift, based on the number of transactions typically occurring during those time frames. During cross-examination, she stated that the shift patterns are typically reviewed annually, but that she could not recollect the last time they were reviewed, that they have no present intention to review the shift patterns, and she agreed that it would likely make sense that more background checks occur outside of normal business hours (9AM – 5PM) for those who are employed and thus, the second shift should have more operators than the first. She also stated that while they previously mandated overtime, they are not currently doing it and while they have an estimate of for 100 calls in the queue, their operators can get through them in 1 hour, she admitted that they’ve never actually verified the accuracy of that estimate and they don’t have a margin of error rate for this “estimate.”
Moreover, she testified that the PICS Operations Unit, at full complement, should be 72 employees, but currently only has 64 and that they have a high turnover rate (41 employees left between 2019 and 2021). She also admitted that they’ve requested an additional 20 employees (which would bring the total complement to 92) for the PICS Operations Unit, but contended that they were awaiting appropriations from the General Assembly to fund those position. On cross-examination, she conceded that in the PSP’s budget request, it admitted that the PSP can already fund the additional 20 employees for the PICS Operations Unit from the Gun Check appropriation fund (which is a restricted fund that can only be utilized for background check-related expenses) but that they have not posted those 20 jobs as being available. Basically, the PSP is holding law-abiding gun owners/purchasers hostage for its desire to obtain even more appropriations, after just last year, its General Government Operations appropriation (which is how it pays its employees) more than doubled, going from $183,253,000 to $441,366,00. And that is just in relation to that appropriation. The PSP’s total current appropriation grew to almost $1.4 billion in total for July 2021-June 2022…and now it is seeking even more for the July 2022-June 2023 fiscal year…
If you’re appalled by the actions of the PSP, contact your state representatives and demand that they hold the PSP accountable.
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