Tag Archives: firearms

Absent Additional Amendments, Oppose Senate Bill 383 Permitting Teachers To Carry Firearms In Pennsylvania

As our viewers are aware, I previously blogged about some of the issues with SB 383 in relation to permitting Pennsylvania teachers to carry firearms in schools. While some minor amendments have been offered in relation to it, there are still a plethora of issues, which preclude me from supporting it, even though I am highly in favor of arming our teachers. Since SB 383 will be up for a vote this week and some are attempting to preclude Senators from being fully aware of the issues with the Bill, I am setting forth all the issues with the bill below and asking that you please contact your Senator and demand that the Bill either be amended to address the below issues or that they vote nay on the Bill.

First, it requires the school official to have a license to carry firearms (“LTCF”). Why is this of concern? Well, SB 383 fails to consider that LTCF applicant information is confidential and not subject to disclosure; whereby, the disclosure of such information is a felony of the 3rd degree and permits civil penalties. Specifically, 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 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.

Section 6111(i) then provides, in pertinent part:

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, 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.

Second, the original bill did nothing to address the confidentiality of this information and how a school district is to protect the disclosure of this information. How is a school official to prove compliance with the provision requiring a license to carry? Will he/she be required to provide a copy of his/her LTCF? If so, to whom? Who will have access to that photocopy? Clearly, not all school personnel should have access to this and in fact, those who should have access should be an EXTREMELY shall group. Will there be logs maintained of who accesses the information? What training about the confidentiality of this information is to be provided to those who are authorized to have access? What logs will be maintained of the training provided to them and certifications by the school official that he/she received the training and that he/she shall keep the information confidential, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i)? Who will have access to those logs and certifications? What is to happen where a school official discloses information in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i)? Shouldn’t that person be immediately removed from having access to that information?

There are other tangential issues that aren’t addressed in the Bill. What about revocation of the school employee’s privilege to carry pursuant to this Bill, if some issue arises with the employee? Obviously, any such action must comport with due process protections. What about where the school employee’s license to carry is revoked or renewal denied or it just expires? How frequently will checks be done to see if the school official is still in compliance with the requirements of the bill? And these are only some of the concerns…

Based on the concern I raised, an amendment to the Bill modified this issue slightly, but still misses the mark and reflects the lack of comprehension of the issues involved. Amended SB 383 merely provides that the information regarding specific school personnel permitted access to firearms in a school “may not be disclosed during a meeting open to the public.” Well great, now what about access to the information at all other times, ensuring that it remains confidential and all the other issues raised above?

Third, and as I addressed as previously being the most concerning is the fact that without the confidentiality of this information being addressed in SB 383, one wonders whether such information will be disclosed to the public, including through Right To Know Law (“RTKL”) requests. Specifically, under the original bill, an individual intent on harming our children, including a potential terrorist or terrorist group, could seemingly learn, in advance, whether a school district has any armed personnel. If so, the criminal/terrorist is likely to target those school personnel first. If, on the other hand, a RTKL request comes back stating that there are no relevant records, such would highlight that there are no armed personnel and that the school is an extremely soft target.

Again, based on the concern I raised, amended SB 383 now specifically provides that none of the information is subject to the RTKL.

I also question why an LTCF is the determining criteria instead of the person being Act 235 certified. It would seem to be far more logical to me to remove the LTCF requirement and replace it with an Act 235 requirement.

While some are astonished that I would take this position, I think it is important to point out that teacher can ALREADY carry on school grounds, based on the Superior Court’s en banc decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin and even prior to it, I am aware of several school districts that petitioned several different courts of common pleas for orders approving individual teachers to possess firearms on school grounds.

For all of the above reasons, I am asking you to contact your State Senator and tell him/her to either demand amendments to SB 383 that address the above or that vote nay on the Bill.

 

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Filed under Uncategorized, Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Press Release: Attorney Joshua Prince To Be Admitted To Practice In Maryland

We are extremely proud to announce that Joshua Prince, Esq. has received notice from the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners that he passed the Maryland Out-of-State Attorneys’ Bar Exam that was administered in February, 2017. While he must take an orientation program, it is anticipated that he will be licensed to practice in Maryland within the next month.

Joshua looks forward to taking his Firm – the Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., including its division, Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) – and his dedication to defending our inalienable right to keep and bear arms to Maryland and establishing beneficial precedent in Maryland, as he has done here in Pennsylvania.

Please join us in congratulating him on this monumental achievement.

 


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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Firearm Preemption Passes Senate With Veto-Proof Vote

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 5 with a vote of 34 to 16, which is a 2/3rds majority veto-proof vote; however, the vote could have been even stronger if three republicans – Senators Greenleaf, Killion and McGarrigle – had not voted against it. 

At the last minute, there were five amendments proposed to Senate Bill 5 of which only one passed. That one provides that the Attorney General shall provide, within 30 days of enactment, notice of the new law to every municipality. Furthermore, the sections of Senate Bill 5 that provide for preemption and enforcement would not be effective for 60 days. What appears lost in relation to this amendment is the fact that firearm preemption has existed since 1979 and it has been a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. Furthermore, there appears to be some thought that unlike us mere peasants, who do not receive personal notification of new laws that are enacted, that municipalities are of a privileged class that deserve personal notification of the fact that their existing ordinances and regulations are in violation of the law.

While Senate Bill 5 is not perfect for other additional issues that I flagged for those capable of resolving them, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Senate Bill 5 now moves to the House of Representatives for a vote.

There are three things that must be done:

  1. If you are a constituent of Senator Boscola, please contact her and let her know that you appreciate her vote in favor of holding municipalities accountable.
  2. If you are a constituent of Senators Senators Greenleaf, Killion or McGarrigle, please let them know that their vote against holding municipalities accountable will have consequences in their next election.
  3. Please contact your House Representative member and ask them to vote in favor of SB 5.

Together, we can ensure that municipalities stop violating the law and are held accountable.

If your rights have been violated by an illegal firearm ordinance or regulation, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., to discuss your legal rights.


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademarkand 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

4th Circuit Issues Devastating Opinion Regarding “Assault Rifles”

Today the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting En Banc issued a devastating opinion regarding “assault rifles” in Kolbe v. Hogan. The Fourth Circuit covers Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

4thcircuit

Kolbe challenged Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (“FSA”), which bans AR-15s and other military-style rifles and shotguns as well as detachable large capacity magazines, by contesting the constitutionality of the law under the Second Amendment, as well as bringing a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection claim. (Quick note to the readers, the use of the terms “assault rifles”, “military-style rifles and shotguns” and “large capacity magazines” are being used in reference to the Court opinion and not the author’s belief that these firearms and magazines should be referred to as such).

At the District Court level, the judge ruled that the FSA was constitutional. While analyzing the Second Amendment claims, the Court expressed doubt that “assault weapons” and “large capacity magazines” were protected by the Second Amendment. As a result the Court employed an intermediate scrutiny analysis.

As the case trickled up the Court system, the 4th Circuit issued an opinion from a divided three judge panel which found “that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are indeed protected by the Second Amendment, and that the FSA substantially burdens the core Second Amendment right to use arms for self-defense in the home.” More importantly, the Court became the first Court in the country to require a strict scrutiny analysis in regard to the Second Amendment claims.

Unfortunately, the Court sitting En Banc had a different idea. It was happy to affirm the District Court’s opinion, “in a large part adopting the Opinion’s cogent reasoning as to why the FSA contravenes neither the Second Amendment nor the Fourteenth.” However, the Court did make an explicit statement that the District Court did not. The Court stated

[w]e conclude — contrary to the now-vacated decision of our prior panel — that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment. That is, we are convinced that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are among those arms that are “like” “M-16 rifles” — “weapons that are most useful in military service” — which the Heller Court singled out as being beyond the Second Amendment’s reach…Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage.

The Court explicitly adopted that intermediate scrutiny was the correct analysis to utilize. “[I]ntermediate scrutiny is the appropriate standard because the FSA does not severely burden the core protection of the Second Amendment, i.e., the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms for self-defense in the home.”

In its analysis the Court found that “[t]he FSA bans only certain military-style weapons and detachable magazines, leaving citizens free to protect themselves with a plethora of other firearms and ammunition. Those include magazines holding ten or fewer rounds, nonautomatic and some semiautomatic long guns, and — most importantly — handguns.”

Applying the intermediate scrutiny standard the Court found “the FSA survives such review because its prohibitions against assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are — as they must be — ‘reasonably adapted to a substantial governmental interest.’” The Court stated that “Maryland’s interest in the protection of its citizenry and the public safety is not only substantial, but compelling.”

Unfortunately, this means that yet another Court has refused to require a strict scrutiny analysis to a fundamental constitutional right. Perhaps the most troubling aspect is the Fourth Circuit believes that firearms like the AR-15 are not protected by the Second Amendment, opening the door for more restrictive legislation to be put in place and making it more difficult to challenge.

 

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Filed under Firearms Law, Uncategorized

Symbolism That We Can All Learn From

I was struck by an article this morning on Fox News regarding two moose who were found frozen in Alaska with their horns interlocked. The symbolism, without even reading the article, struck me. How many would would recognize the underlying moral to the story?

I frequently lecture on the use of force and that in many occasions, the best response, if possible, is to remove yourself from the situation. Yet, for some, sometimes their emotions, their “man card” and their pride preclude them from heading my advice. So, let me try through an extremely poignant picture.

Dog fight bird symbolism.jpg

What can we learn from this picture?

First, sometimes our safest and most astute response to provocation is not to fight; but rather, to walk away. Yet, some may see or comprehend this as an opportunity lost.

However, the second learning experience that we can take away from this picture is that not all opportunities are to be taken, as some opportunities are traps that may lead to our own demise.

And this leads us to the third learning experience that we, as human beings, can become so determined to harm or destroy our adversary that we become blind and end up destroying ourselves.

And let me be abundantly clear, your actions may be completely justified and supported by the law and yet, even if you survive the encounter without even a scratch, you still may destroy yourself. Few people can comprehend the impact on their psychological state after being involved in a use of force situation, even where the perpetrator was only harmed and survived. There are reasons, as Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman points out in his book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, that our soldiers, historically, are disinclined to kill, unless we dehumanize the enemy, and that there are relatively few recorded instances in history of soldiers using bayonets against one another. I have in my profession, unfortunately, seen the aftermath of a justified use of force situation on an individual’s psychological well-being…I have also seen the aftermath of a non-justified use of force situation on an individuals psychological well-being and frankly, they do not tend to be that different. You will not be the same, at least, not for a while, although you will believe you are the same exact individual. Your family – those that you love the most – however, will see drastic changes in you. And with time, love, support and proper counseling, you can go back to being substantially similar to who you were before, but you’ll never be the exact same.

Keep this in mind if you find yourself in a situation, where you can safely remove yourself. There is far more to be proud of in deescalating a situation than the possibility of your family sitting over your grave.

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Filed under Firearms Law

VA Actively Depriving Veterans of Second Amendment Rights

Today, I met with a client who was denied by FBI / PSP because of, as stated on the denial, “Veterans Affairs Administration.”

Although I’ve vociferously spoken out against the VA being able to strip individuals’ Second Amendment rights, in all honesty, until today, I had not seen a case where a veteran had actually been denied in the absence of an actual involuntary mental health commitment or formal adjudication of incompetence. Today, that all changed.

While past stories discuss denying a veteran, where the veteran elected to have a third-party handle his/her financial affairs (and of course, I have to question how someone who is deemed to be “incompetent” can execute a form competently…but I digress), my client’s denial is far more egregious – as if, I ever thought I could see such a situation.

In my client’s situation, he handles all of his own finances. The VA does not dispute this. Rather, when I finally got a representative from the VA on the line, she informed us that the VA, on its own initiative, placed him into “supervised direct payment status”. When I inquired as to what “supervised direct payment status” was, the representative stated that it is where the veteran handles his/her own financial affairs but they “watch the veteran’s financial accounts.” While the VA contended that they sent out a letter about this status being imposed on my client, my client never received such a letter and they acknowledged that it does not mention anything about the loss of the veteran’s Second Amendment rights, but that the VA has been imposing such since 2013.

No due process is provided. The representative acknowledged that my client never received a hearing and that the determination that my client was incompetent was made solely by a VA official reviewing his case. She stated that he could have appealed the determination when he received the original letter, but the time has since past to appeal. Remember, this is the letter that my client never received and which makes no mention of the loss of one’s Second Amendment rights…

While they have reluctantly agreed to send my client copies of the putative letter that they allegedly previously sent, they refused to provide his entire file, even at my request. This is the new Veteran Affairs Administration, folks. We now treat our illegal immigrants with more respect and benefits than our own veterans. This is an absolute disgrace and the VA’s policies and procedures need to be immediately reversed. Of course, we’re all aware that such is unlikely if former Secretary Clinton is elected…

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Filed under ATF, Firearms Law

6th Circuit Acknowledges Second Amendment As-Applied Challenges To Mental Health Commitments

As our readers are aware, in July, I was successful in arguing in Keyes, et al. v. Lynch, et al., before the Middle District of Pennsylvania that a life long prohibition on an individual as a result of a single, isolated mental health commitment violated his Second Amendment rights, as-applied to him. Today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision in Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Dept., et al., acknowledging the same.

The 6th Circuit agreed with an argument that I made in Keyes that the Heller Court’s pronouncement that it was not casting doubt on the ability of the Congress to limit possession of firearms to “the mentally ill” was specific to those who are currently mentally ill, as opposed to those who might, at one time, have a bout of depression or decompression.

As the U.S. Government has now appealed Keyes to the Third Circuit, even after the Binderup/Suarez decision, we expect that the Third Circuit will rule identically to the 6th Circuit and affirm the Middle District’s decision.

If you are prohibited under federal law as a result of a mental health commitment, contact us today to discuss your options. Together, we can fight for your inalienable right to Keep and Bear Arms.

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Filed under Constitutional Law, Firearms Law