PA Sheriffs Are Violating Law By Refusing To Process Carry Permits

All over the nation, a lot of sheriff’s departments are refusing to carry out some of their duties. In particular, they’re not interested in conducting the fingerprinting required for concealed carry permits. This has led to a great deal of discussion as to whether they can even do it.

Well, the laws vary in each state, obviously. As such, it’s difficult for anyone to keep up with the legalities everywhere.

However, a practicing attorney who also works with Pennsylvania’s Firearm Owners Against Crime offered his thoughts, and sheriff’s departments who aren’t processing permits aren’t going to like it.

Recently, due to COVID-19, a number of Pennsylvania Sheriff Departments, in violation of the law and their oaths, have notified residents that they will no longer process license to carry firearm (LTCF) applications, including renewals; thereby, preventing individuals who do not have an LTCF from being able to defend themselves in a time of need and subjecting those who do have an LTCF, but whose LTCF lapses, to criminal prosecution.

But you don’t have to worry about the above because you have your LTCF, right? Well, that’s true unless your LTCF is set to expire, while your county sheriff is refusing to process LTCF applications. But Josh, my sheriff told me that there is a 6 month grace period, so I’m fine! If only it were that simple…

Although 18 Pa.C.S. § 6106(b)(12) provides an “exception,” the Superior Court has turned that “exception” into a “defense.” Specifically, Section 6106(b)(12) provides:

(b)  Exceptions.–The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to: … (12) A person who has a lawfully issued license to carry a firearm pursuant to section 6109 (relating to licenses) and that said license expired within six months prior to the date of arrest and that the individual is otherwise eligible for renewal of the license.

Unfortunately, the Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Anderson held that “exceptions” were “defenses” to prosecution – meaning the Commonwealth can prosecute you and during trial, you can raise an “exception” as a defense to prosecution. As I detailed in my blog article Devastating En Banc Decision Regarding Act 235 Security Guards,

However, in a mind-boggling evisceration of the statutory language, the court goes on to say that the “exceptions” found in Section 6106(b), even though the statutory text states that subsection (a) shall not apply, are defenses that must be proven at trial. This is truly a manifest injustice, as the General Assembly is acutely aware of how to draft provisions that are “defenses,” as evidenced by 18 Pa.C.S. 912(c), and those that are immunities or exceptions.

Based on the absurdity of this decision, for example, now law enforcement officers, who are found in a courthouse possessing a firearm, are to be prosecuted and have to prove, as a defense, that the firearm was possessed in “lawful performance of official duties” because Section 913(c) makes such possession an “exception.” Even more obscene, the same would be true of “constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen of this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, or other law-enforcement officers,” since this is an “exception” found in Section 6106(b).

Thus, sheriffs who are refusing to issue renewals to residents whose LTCF is set to expire are subjecting those individuals to criminal prosecution.

That was written by attorney Joshua Prince, and I urge you to go and read the whole thing.

Clearly, this is a problem.

However, in a conversation with FOAC’s Kim Stolfer this morning, the organization is meeting with at least a couple of the sheriff’s to try and find a way forward that will mitigate risk for sheriff department staff while still allowing people to get their permits.

Of course, the legislature could make this a non-issue. HB 1412 is a constitutional carry bill already introduced in the state House. Pass that and get it signed and none of this matters anymore. Then people can carry guns as they feel they need to and the state won’t have anything to say about it one way or another.

In the meantime, I hope Stolfer and these sheriffs can come to an agreement about how to proceed and that other sheriffs follow that lead. People are probably going to need their guns. Those don’t do them any good unless they’re available when they need them. That means carrying them on their own person.

If such an agreement isn’t reached and the sheriffs continue with this nonsense, people will die and not just from the disease.