Tag Archives: Amish

PA Governor Wolf and Republican Members of the General Assembly Seek to Preclude the Amish from Obtaining Guns and Ammunition

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.

 


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.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

FICG Sues U.S. Government Over Picture Requirement To Purchase a Firearm

Yesterday, the Firearm Industry Consulting Group, a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., filed a complaint against the United States and numerous other individuals in the United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Mr. Hertzler, an Amish man, who is being denied his “core right” to purchase and possess a handgun for purposes of self-defense in his home, because federal law requires that he produce identification, bearing a photograph, which violates his core religious beliefs.

Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(1)(c) requires that a Federal Firearms Licensee only transfer a firearm to an individual who produces “a valid identification document (as defined in section 1028(d) of this title) of the transferee containing a photograph of the transferee.” As Mr. Hertzler’s sincerely held religious beliefs preclude him from knowingly and willingly having his photograph taken, Mr. Hertzler is unable to meet the requirements of Section 922(t); thereby, requiring him to either forego his constitutional right to keep and bear arms in defense of himself and his home or violate his religious tenants. Even Pennsylvania law acknowledges Mr. Hertzler’s religious beliefs and provides for non-photo ID and drivers licenses and for the ability of an individual to purchase a firearm with non-photo ID, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(b)(2). However, federal law fails to include such an exception, in violation of the Second Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

We will keep our viewers apprised as this case proceeds forward

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Filed under ATF, Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law