There’s a lot to dislike about the ATF. We’ve talked about it plenty over the years, and if you get two gun people together for a long enough period of time, the subject of how much the ATF sucks will come up. It’s like Godwin’s Law but for gun people.
(I won’t even try to find differentiation between Nazis and the ATF, though.)
But like it or not, the ATF is a federal law enforcement agency, which means they often get local police to help them. This isn’t generally a huge deal since it involves raids of illegal gun dealers or things like that.
In one Philadelphia suburb, though, it looks like the police chief has gone full jackboot and become the ATF’s lackey. Lee Williams has a very revealing post about the sheriff of Montgomery County, and the kicker is that the ATF probably doesn’t know a thing about it.
At the very least, Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny has violated his oath of office, particularly the portion in which he swore to support and defend the United States Constitution including the Second Amendment.
Montgomery County is a Philadelphia suburb and the third largest county in Pennsylvania. Sheriff Kilkenny oversees approximately 115 deputies who lack a traditional law enforcement mission. They neither patrol nor respond to 911 calls regularly. Their “core responsibilities” include courthouse security, transporting prisoners and serving warrants and other legal process. Most of the actual police work in Montgomery County is done by local and State Police, the Sheriff acknowledges on his website.
At a time when most law enforcement agencies are struggling with budget cuts and severe recruiting and staffing problems, Kilkenny’s deputies were looking for more to do. The Sheriff recently ordered them to start conducting warrantless inspections of local gun dealers in their jurisdiction. In addition to a Federal Firearm License, gun dealers in the Commonwealth must also obtain a state license, according to a regulation promulgated by the Pennsylvania State Police. This state license requires the dealers to agree to warrantless searches by the State Police or their designee — in this case the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
A series of emails obtained by the Second Amendment Foundation through Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know legislation shows how Sheriff Kilkenny, who is also an attorney, was practically groomed into agreeing to conduct these inspections by a statewide gun-control group, CeaseFirePA. The emails also demonstrate how neither the Sheriff’s Office nor CeaseFirePA knew what they were doing when they established the program, or even how to train the deputies before sending them out to inspect local gun dealers.
See, for all the issues with the ATF, they at least understand how the paperwork is supposed to look. Your average street cop doesn’t. That’s not a slam on them, either. It’s just outside of their training.
Yet the police officers aren’t the only ones who don’t really have sufficient education.
Gun dealers know what the ATF expects to find and can make sure everything is in order. They have no idea what local police are expecting, so they don’t know the boundaries or limits.
What’s more, it’s not like there’s anything in Pennsylvania state law permitting this, apparently.
Legal experts balked at the local deputies’ reliance on warrantless searches.
“Unlike other areas of Pennsylvania law, where the legislature did craft language to allow for warrantless searches, the requirement to allow such is not found anywhere in the laws regulating firearms sales and was wholly created by an administrative agency,” said Adam Kraut, executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation.
“We’ve taken this action to assure constitutional rights are protected from legal oversteps by law enforcement,” added Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation.
“[T]his action” refers to a lawsuit brought against the chief for his blatantly illegal efforts.
See, if state law actually required gun stores to be open to warrantless searches like this, that would be one thing. Courts have found that it’s permissible to have someone forgo certain aspects of their rights if they want a particular license.
I disagree, but until a higher court smacks it down, it is what it is.
But there doesn’t seem to actually be a statute in Pennsylvania state law that permits these warrantless searches by local police.
The ATF has authority due to federal law. Kilkinny’s officers have jack squat.
I can’t imagine why the Second Amendment Foundation has filed a lawsuit. It’s an absolute mystery.
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is overstepping its authority with this nonsense and the rationale needs to be dismantled once and forever. Gun stores don’t need both the feds and local cops treating them like they’re criminals.
It’s bad enough when it’s the ATF. It’s worse when it’s your neighbor who doesn’t even know what he’s doing.
My sincere hope is that the error of KilKinny’s ways becomes abundantly clear to the entire state and this nonsense comes to an abrupt and unceremonious end.