Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

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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4hr Firearms Law Seminar – April 15, 2017 with Rockwell Tactical!

On April 15, 2017, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince, Attorney Eric Winter and Attorney Adam Kraut of Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) in conjunction with Rockwell Tactical, will offer a four (4) hour seminar on state and federal firearms law at the DoubleTree Resort at 2400 Willow Street Pike, Lancaster, PA 17602.

The cost is $20 and you should register early, as the classes sell out fast! To register or to find out further information, check out Rockwell Tactical’s registration page.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact Rockwell Tactical at info@rockwelltactical.com or 717-405-2999.

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Pennsylvania Announces the First Phase of Permit Applications for Grower/Processors and Dispensaries.

Yesterday, Secretary of Health, Dr. Karen Murphy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“DOH”) announced that applications for medical marijuana grower/processors and dispensaries will be available at the Pennsylvania DOH’s website, www.health.pa.gov, beginning January 17, 2017. Permit applications will be accepted from February 20, 2017 until March 20, 2017.

In less than a year, Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (“MMA”) has gone from enactment to the first phase of implementation. Pursuant to chapter 6 of the MMA, Section 601 authorizes grower/processors and dispensaries as the only entities authorized to receive a permit and operate as a medical marijuana organizations and grow, process or dispenses medical marijuana.

Section 602(a) of the MMA generally requires all applications to include:

1. Verification of all principals, operators, financial backers or employees of a medical marijuana grower/processor or dispensary.
2. A description of responsibilities as a principal, operator, financial backer or employee.
3. Any release necessary to obtain information from governmental agencies, employers and other organizations.
4. A criminal history record check.
5. Details relating to a similar license, permit or other authorization obtained in another jurisdiction, including any suspensions, revocations or discipline in that jurisdiction.
6. A description of the business activities in which it intends to engage as a medical marijuana organization.
7. A statement that the applicant: (i) Is of good moral character; (ii) Possesses the ability to obtain in an expeditious manner the right to use sufficient land, buildings and other premises and equipment to properly carry on the activity described in the application and any proposed location for a facility; (iii) Is able to maintain effective security and control to prevent diversion, abuse and other illegal conduct relating to medical marijuana; and (iv) Is able to comply with all applicable Commonwealth laws and regulations relating to the activities in which it intends to engage under this act.
8. The name, residential address and title of each financial backer and principal of the applicant. Each individual, or lawful representative of a legal entity, shall submit an affidavit with the application setting forth: (i) Any position of management or ownership during the preceding 10 years of a controlling interest in any other business, located inside or outside this Commonwealth, manufacturing or distributing controlled substances; and (ii) Whether the person or business has been convicted of a criminal offense graded higher than a summary offense or has had a permit relating to medical marijuana suspended or revoked in any administrative or judicial proceeding, and
9. Any other information the department may require.

Section 607 of the MMA sets forth the following fees and requirements to obtain a permit.

For a grower/processor:  1) An initial nonrefundable application fee of $10,000 must be paid; 2) A permit fee of $200,000 is required at the time of application. (The fee shall be returned if the permit is not granted); and 3)  A grower/processor must have at least $2,000,000 in capital, $500,000 of which must be on deposit with a financial institution.

For a dispensary: 1) An initial nonrefundable application fee of $5,000 must be paid: 2  A permit fee of $30,000 for each location must be paid. (The fee shall be returned if the application is not granted); and 3) A dispensary must have at least $150,000 in capital, which must be on deposit with a financial institution.

In October and November, the DOH drafted and published general regulations as well as specific regulations for both grower/processors and dispensaries. The regulations can be found at 28 PA. Code CHS 1141, 1151, and 1161.

Pursuant to 28 PA. Code §1141.23, no more than 25 permits will be issued for grower/processors and only one grower/processor permit per applicant. Additionally, no more than 50 dispensary permits will be issued and no more than five dispensary permits to one person. A dispensary permit may be used at no more than three locations.

28 PA. Code §1141.28 states the DOH shall publish in the Pennsylvania Bulletin notice of the initial permit application availability and the timeframe which they will be accepted. Only the form of application provided on the DOH’s website may be used and it must be submitted electronically.

Secretary Murphy further announced that this was the first phase of the program and that initially up to 12 permits will be issued for grower/processors and up to 27 permits will be issued for dispensaries, across Pennsylvania’s six medical marijuana regions. Secretary Murphy stated that “the decision for which counties will be issued permits in this first phase was determined by using the department’s medical data, as well as comments from more than 5,000 patients and nearly 900 potential grower/processors and dispensary applicants.” For further information on how many permits will be issued per each region please read the blog at http://cannabisindustrylawgroup.com/index.php/2016/12/21/pa-department-of-health-outlines-phase-i-of-medical-marijuana-program/

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Major Pennsylvania Firearm Cases of 2016

As the year is coming to a close, I thought it important to document some of the monumental court decisions that Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®), a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., obtained in 2016, as well as, some other cases of importance.

We were successful in a monumental case of first impression in obtaining a decision from the Commonwealth Court holding that all license to carry firearms applicant information is confidential and not subject to disclosure. The court held that disclosure through an un-enveloped postcard was a public disclosure.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Childs re-affirmed that the Castle Doctrine is an inalienable/inherent right.

There was the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota that held that a state may not imposed additional criminal sanctions or penalties on someone refusing a breathalyzer or blood draw. Although we were not involved in the Birchfield decision, as a result of the decision, we were able to get numerous individual relief from previously prohibiting convictions and plea deals.

In another case of first impression, we were successful in a Second Amendment as-applied challenge in relation to a mental health commitment. The District Court even declared:

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.

In a monumental order, the Superior Court vacated its decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin and ordered re-briefing and argument on whether Mr. Goslin, who merely possessed a lawful pocket knife on school grounds, was entitled to the defense of his possession constituting an “other lawful purpose.” This was after the Superior Court had issued a devastating opinion holding that one could only possess a weapon on school grounds if it related to and was necessitated by the reason the individual was on school grounds. We now await the court’s decision.

The most recent decision was in relation to Lower Merion Township’s illegal firearm ordinances, which precluded individuals from possessing and utilizing firearms in their parks, in direct contravention of Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and our state preemption, found in 18 Pa.C.S. 6120. The Commonwealth Court found that Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC) was entitled to an injunction.

These are but a few of the extremely important, pro-Second Amendment, decisions that were rendered this year in Pennsylvania.

If your rights have been violated, contact us today to discuss your options! Together, we can ensure that YOUR constitutional rights aren’t infringed!

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Numerous Verified Reports of Voting Machine Issues in Pennsylvania

As some of you are aware, I am serving in Berks County as a Poll Watcher. Prior to today, I had little concern over the voting machines used by Pennsylvania, as they are 30+ years old and not connected to the internet. However, today my concern has changed.

I have seen numerous verified reports from across the Commonwealth of voting machines specifying the Democratic candidates, when an individual has selected the straight Republican candidates button. This has been a confirmed issue in Lebanon County, as reported by PennLive – Voting Machine Error that Showed Republicans Voting Democrat Fixed. There is also the report from the Schuylkill County Republican Committee of the same thing:

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I also have a report from Berks County – Muhlenberg 10th, that the same issue was occurring. There are also reports from Exeter, identical in nature.

While currently all information is supporting that votes cast for the candidates specified by the light next to his/her name is being correctly recorded, it is questionable of whether that information can be definitively known at this time, given the way in which the data is recorded in these machines.

Accordingly, any voter should specify the individual candidates that he/she desires to vote for and not click the button to vote straight party.

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Ballot selfie? PA Law and the First Amendment Collide

If you are planning on snapping a “selfie” in the voting booth this Tuesday, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

dutch_voting_selfie

25 Pa.C.S. § 3530 prohibits a voter from showing “his ballot or the face of the voting machine voted by him to be seen by any person with the apparent intention of letting it be known how he is about to vote.” A person who violates this section “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding one thousand ($1,000) dollars, or to undergo an imprisonment of not more than one (1) year, or both, in the discretion of the court.”

While the law does not make it a crime to show a ballot after it has been cast, any revelation prior to the vote being cast appears to be punishable. This would seemingly include any live streaming activities as well. It also appears to conflict with one’s First Amendment right to free speech.

In fact, a Federal Court held in September that a New Hampshire ban on “ballot selfies” was unconstitutional. The law challenged made it unlawful for voters to snap a picture of their ballot and post it on social media.

The Pennsylvania Department of State (DoS) issued a guidance on rules in effect at the polling place on election day in October of this year. Under the section entitled “Electronic Devices” the DoS states that the Election Code does not address the use of electronic devices in the polling place and as such, counties should “adopt common sense rules that take into account the need for order in the polling place and the right of citizens to vote unimpeded.”

In particular, the guidance notes that “[r]ecent court cases have found a First Amendment right to take “ballot selfies”. Therefore, the DoS recommends that “voters who want to take a picture of themselves voting take care that they not disclose the selections of voters other than themselves. The Department recommends that voters wait until after they leave the polling place to post ballot selfies on social media.”

While the law has not changed here in Pennsylvania, it would seem that the trend on a national level would indicate that if an individual were to challenge the law in relation to “ballot selfies” they would be successful on First Amendment grounds.

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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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