Category Archives: Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department Violates the Law in Issuing Unlawful LTCF

Today, I became aware of an article by Stephen J. Nesbitt and Jonathan D. Silver of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette entitled Sheriff’s Office deletes photos of Pirate Parrot ‘gun license’ in which it not only alleges, but provides proof, that the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office issued a license to carry firearms (LTCF) to a fictitious mascot – Pirate Parrot – in violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (UFA).

The article includes a photo of the LTCF that was issued (interestingly reflecting an issuance date of 4/2/15), which the article declares was taken down off of the Sheriff Office’s social media page but which Allegheny County Sheriff Mullens confirmed the existence of.

While some may not be alarmed and may believe it to be humorous, there are significant legal consequences. First, and foremost, a license to carry firearms can only be issued to an “individual,”after the requisite investigation, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6109. Clearly, the Pirate Parrot is not an individual and a quick review of the LTCF Application, which is promulgated by the Pennsylvania State Police, confirms that it would be an impossibility for the Sheriff to issue an LTCF due to the Pirate Parrot lacking identification, which is defined in 37 Pa.Code. 33.102.

Moreover, in conducting the investigation, the Sheriff is to

  • (1)  investigate the applicant’s record of criminal conviction;
  • (2)  investigate whether or not the applicant is under indictment for or has ever been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year;
  • (3)  investigate whether the applicant’s character and reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety;
  • (4)  investigate whether the applicant would be precluded from receiving a license under subsection (e)(1) or section 6105(h) (relating to persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms); and
  • (5)  conduct a criminal background, juvenile delinquency and mental health check following the procedures set forth in section 6111 (relating to sale or transfer of firearms), receive a unique approval number for that inquiry and record the date and number on the application.

Clearly, it is an impossibility for the Sheriff to conduct such an investigation in relation to a fictitious entity. One must question whether the unique approval number was obtained (whereby false information was provided to the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS)) and whether the Pirate Parrot was charged for his LTCF, since certain portions of the amount collected must be remitted to the State Treasury, pursuant to Section 6109(h)(3). All of these violations, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6119, would be misdemeanors of the first degree.

But there are further violations of the law. Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1),

Any person, … who knowingly and intentionally obtains or furnishes information collected or maintained pursuant to section 6109 for any purpose other than compliance with this chapter or who knowingly or intentionally disseminates, publishes or otherwise makes available such information to any person other than the subject of the information commits a felony of the third degree.

And then there are the civil consequence of disclosing LTCF applicant information, as provided by Section 6111(i)

Confidentiality.  All information provided by the … applicant, including, but not limited to, the … applicant’s name or identity, furnished by … any applicant for a license to carry a firearm as provided by section 6109 shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. In addition to any other sanction or penalty imposed by this chapter, any person,… State or local governmental agency or department that violates this subsection shall be liable in civil damages in the amount of $ 1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.

Plus, there are violations related to the Allegheny County Sheriff Department’s inclusion of false information into the Pennsylvania State Police’s database of LTCF applicant information.

What is most disconcerting is that this is the same Sheriff’s Office that imposes unlawful regulations on applicants who apply for LTCFs. As set-forth in Section 6109, only the PSP is to promulgate the form to apply for an LTCF and the criteria for denying an individual is found in Section 6109(e). Yet, in the absence of any criteria found within Section 6109(e), the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department denies individuals who, prior to a finding of guilt, have an open case in any court and of any type (including traffic citations, parking tickets, fish and game, etc). It also denies anyone with a closed case in any court where exists a remaining case balance, even where the individual has a payment plan with the court. And lastly, in direct violation of Section 6109, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department refuses to accept and process applications for non-PA Resident Licenses.

It would be nice if the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department spent more time on complying with the law than violating the law…but all may not be lost. Given the issuance of Pirate Parrot’s LTCF, now there exists a legal and constitutional basis, under Equal Protection, to challenge all of the Sheriff Departments denials and illegal requirements. More importantly, some in the Sheriff’s Department may have the opportunity to keep former Attorney General Kathleen Kane company in jail.

If you believe your confidential LTCF applicant information has been disclosed by an individual or governmental agency, contact us today to discuss your options!

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PSP Illegally Disclosing LTCF Information Through NCIC

Over the past couple days, I have received several reports, one from a 911 dispatcher, that approximately 3 days ago, an update was completed to the NCIC system, whereby when an officer in Pennsylvania runs an individual’s driver’s license, if the individual has a license to carry firearms (LTCF), the information relating to the individual’s LTCF is disclosed to the officer and everyone in the call center. This is in violation of the law.

18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(g)(3.1) provides:

Any person, licensed dealer, licensed manufacturer or licensed importer who knowingly and intentionally obtains or furnishes information collected or maintained pursuant to section 6109 [LTCF firearms information] for any purpose other than compliance with this chapter or who knowingly or intentionally disseminates, publishes or otherwise makes available such information to any person other than the subject of the information commits a felony of the third degree. (Emphasis added)

Further, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(i) provides, in pertinent part:

All information provided by the … applicant, including, but not limited to, the … applicant’s name or identity, furnished by … any applicant for a license to carry a firearm as provided by section 6109 shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. In addition to any other sanction or penalty imposed by this chapter, any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department that violates this subsection shall be liable in civil damages in the amount of $ 1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.

While there has always been an offline database that an officer could query if he/she had reasonable suspicion of a crime relating to the carrying of a firearm or the validity of a LTCF, there is no legal basis for disclosure of confidential LTCF information relative to a driving infraction or merely running one’s driver’s license. Furthermore, even if there was, it is illegal to disclose this information to individuals other than a law enforcement officer acting in the scope of his/her duties. As I understand the new system, it is being relayed to emergency responders, which may even include tow truck drivers that are part of the system.

If you have more information on this new system, please let us know. We will continue to keep our viewers apprised as we learn more.

If you confidential LTCF information has been disclosed, contact us today to discuss your options!

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Allentown RTKL Response to Illegal Firearm Regulation Proposals

As many of our viewers are aware, I frequently submit Right to Know Law (RTKL) requests to municipalities in relation to firearms law matters. After the City of Allentown noticed its intent to propose and adopt new firearm ordinances, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120, I filed a RTKL Request seeking information relative to the proposals, including communications related thereto.

Specifically, I requested:

Any letter, email, fax or written communication from any person in the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office or any person from the Office for Solicitor for the City of Allentown relating to any existing or proposed ordinance or regulation relating to firearms or ammunition from January 1, 2008 through the present.  Reporter Emily Opilo recently published an article stating that letters received from District Attorney Martin and Solicitor Wild relating to a proposed ordinance regulating firearms and ammunition were discussed at a meeting on August 17, 2016 – http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-allentown-lost-gun-law-committee-20160817-story.html

Today, I received a response from the City approving in part and denying in part my request. In addition to the cover letter, they produced 52 pages of records. While many of the pages are copies of cases, pages 1-2, 45-50 and 51-52 are letters from Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin informing the City, the City Council members and Mayor Ed Pawlowski that any such regulation is unlawful and unconstitutional. While it is extremely refreshing to see a District Attorney actively involved in a firearm and ammunition preemption issue, its unfortunate that no mention was made of the criminality of violating Section 6120, as such would be a misdemeanor of the first degree, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6119, as well as constituting official oppression. Maybe, District Attorney Martin was saving the best for last, in case they elected to move forward with an illegal and unconstitutional regulation.

I, personally, would like to thank and commend District Attorney Martin for immediately and preemptively addressing this issue. Come election time, please always remember that District Attorney Martin is a staunch defender of Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

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MONUMENTAL Decision from the Superior Court Vacating Its Prior Decision Regarding Weapons on School Property!

As our viewers are aware, I previously wrote about the devastating decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin from the Superior Court in relation to carrying a weapon on school property and the “other lawful purpose” defense.

After the decision, Mr. Goslin contacted me and we, pro-bono, filed a Motion for Reconsideration/Reargument en banc, wherein, inter alia, we argued that the Superior Court should permit new briefs to be filed and oral argument, after vacating the court’s July 6, 2016 decision. Today, the Superior Court GRANTED the motion, withdrew the July 6, 2016 decisions and scheduled re-briefing and argument.

Accordingly, the Superior Court’s July 6, 2016 decision is no longer valid and we will have an opportunity to re-argue the matter. Unfortunately, the court only provided several weeks to submit briefs and Mr. Goslin is not in a position to fund the briefing and argument. Therefore, if you are in a position to be able to help fund this matter, Mr. Goslin would greatly appreciate donations which can be made online through our Firm’s escrow account here – https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/princelaw/trust. Simply place Goslin Appeal in the Matter No/Client Name box.

We will keep our viewers apprised of the Superior Court’s ultimate decision in this matter

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US Supreme Court Decision Affects Firearms Rights – Ability to Obtain Relief from Certain DUIs!

On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that case of Birchfield v. North Dakota, 14-1468, in which the Court held that while implied consent laws relative to driving under the influence (DUI) may impose civil penalties, it is unconstitutional for them to impose criminal penalties for refusing to consent.

Specifically, as the Syllabus to the decision declares:

Motorists may not be criminally punished for refusing to submit to a blood test based on legally implied consent to submit to them. It is one thing to approve implied-consent laws that impose civil penalties and evidentiary consequences on motorists who refuse to comply, but quite another for a State to insist upon an intrusive blood test and then to impose criminal penalties on refusal to submit. There must be a limit to the consequences to which motorists may be deemed to have consented by virtue of a decision to drive on public roads. Pg 36-37

So how does this affect your firearm rights?

Under Pennsylvania law, if an individual refuses his/her consent relative to a second (or third) DUI, the criminal grading becomes a misdemeanor of the 1st degree, which is federally prohibiting for purposes of purchasing and possessing firearms and ammunition. I previously blogged about a similar situation in Pennsylvania, when the Pennsylvania Superior Court decided Musau. Unfortunately, as a result of the Superior Court’s decision, the General Assembly amended the statute, so that anyone who refused consent on a second (or third) DUI would be penalized by a misdemeanor of the first degree, instead of an ungraded misdemeanor (which would not be prohibiting under state or federal law).

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield, those individuals in Pennsylvania who have been convicted or pled guilty to a misdemeanor of the first degree as a result of a second (or third) DUI, due to their refusal to consent, have been subjected to an unlawful sentence and have a limited opportunity to file for relief under Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).

Therefore, if you or a family member were convicted of a second or third DUI, where you refused to submit to chemical testing, contact us immediately, as you have the ability to petition the court to have your conviction properly reflect the grading as an ungraded misdemeanor, which would not trigger a state or federal firearms disability.

As Federal Firearms Relief is not currently available and the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons does not with any frequency grant pardons to those who have been convicted of repeat offenses, this may be your ONLY extremely limited opportunity to obtain relief!

Contact Us Today to Discuss YOUR Rights and How We Can Restore Your Right to Keep and Bear Arms – info@princelaw.com or 888-313-0416

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PA Supreme Court Affirms that Castle Doctrine is an Inherent Right

In a decision issued in Commonwealth v Childs on July 19, 2016 relating to the retroactive effect of Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground law (HB40 of 2011), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court acknowledged that the Castle Doctrine is an inherent right, dating back to biblical times, and that the Right existed in common law, long before being codified as part of our Stand Your Ground law in 2011.

Specifically, the Court declared:

When this Court addressed the castle doctrine in 1952, we explained that it “has always been recognized as the law in this State” and that the castle doctrine’s acceptance is “universal.” Commonwealth v. Fraser, 85 A.2d 126,128 (Pa. 1952).

The Court went on to explain:

Although the castle doctrine has existed at common law in this Commonwealth essentially since its founding, it was not codified in Pennsylvania until 1972, with the enactment of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 505. In enacting section 505, the legislature sought “to codify existing case law pertaining to ‘self-defense’ and to cover in a single rule the law governing the use of defensive force.” 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 505 (amended June 28, 2011).

I must admit that it is refreshing to see such a decision which was not decided along party lines and acknowledges inalienable rights.

While the Court did not address whether Stand Your Ground is an inalienable Right, I was previously published in Volume 27, Issue 1, of the St. Thomas Law Review on The Inalienable Right to Stand Your Ground. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see the Pennsylvania Supreme Court acknowledge that Stand Your Ground is an inalienable Right.

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Monumental Decision from the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania Regarding Mental Health Commitments and the Second Amendment

Today, Judge John E. Jones, III. of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania held in Keyes, et al. v. Loretta Lynch, et al. that an individual, who was involuntarily committed on a single-isolated occasion, can successfully challenge a prohibition under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).

In this case, both Mr. Keyes and Mr. Yox challenged, inter alia, whether 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) violated their Second Amendment rights, as-applied to their specific factual scenarios. Unfortunately, although Mr. Keyes and Mr. Yox’s factual backgrounds were extremely similar, the reason Mr. Keyes was denied the same outcome as Mr. Yox was due to the PA Superior Court’s previous incorrect analysis in In re Keyes, which Judge Jones felt precluded him from addressing Mr. Keyes’ Second Amendment as-applied challenge.

In addressing Mr. Yox’s challenge, the court declared:

Notably, Defendants hardly mention at all in their briefing, much less challenge, the specific facts of Mr. Yox’ case. Defendants reference Mr. Yox’s possession and use of firearms as a member of the military and as a correctional officer only to argue that there is no legal support for the position that his Second Amendment right can be restored “merely by virtue of his employment history.” (Doc. 46, p. 4). That this dismissive treatment of Mr. Yox’s public service [as] ungracious is clear. But more importantly, Defendants avoid addressing the clear irony of Mr. Yox’s situation. It requires a suspension of logic to believe that Mr. Yox is mentally stable enough to possess and use various types of firearms in his professional capacity, including putting his life on the line for his country while on active military duty, but is not mentally stable enough to possess a firearm for self protection in his home.

The court then went on to declare:

Indeed, Mr. Yox provides the perfect test case to challenge § 922(g)(4), as the illogical contradiction of being able to possess firearms in his professional capacities but not being able to possess a firearm for protection in his own home puts in relief a factual scenario where an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to this statute may succeed.

Indeed, if Mr. Yox were not to succeed on his as-applied challenge, we cannot imagine that there exists any person who could.

I must admit that it is extremely refreshing to see Judge Jones acknowledge that those who “are mentally ill” is a distinct and separate category from those who had an single-isolated mental health commitment over a decade ago. I believe we will see a number of federal challenges, some already pending in Pennsylvania, in relation to whether mental health commitments can strip an individual of a constitutional right, especially under Section 302 of the Mental Health and Procedures Act, as it does not provide any form of due process.

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