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Seeking your input; Florida loophole letter
#1
What follows is a first draft of a letter that I plan on hand delivering to the office of each newly elected State Senator and Representative on the day they are sworn into this next legislative session. That means I have a bit of time to perfect it and I'm seeking the board's input on it as a result.

Of course putting this on a public forum means that early drafts of the letter may make their way to newly elected officials prior to then, but that is fine and it's not that likely anyway.

The letter is as follows, thank you in advance to those who offer any feedback.

...

Welcome to Harrisburg,

I would like to first offer you a congratulations on your election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. As you begin to represent the people of this Commonwealth one issue that will most certainly arise is that over firearms' license reciprocity. Most likely you will hear about this issue under the poorly chosen title of the "Florida Loophole". This letter serves as an opening introduction to this matter and provides a short description of my position on this issue.

Firearm's license reciprocity is a critical aspect of the right to bear arms both in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Across our great Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of individuals possess a license to carry a firearm issued by a Sheriff or by the Philadelphia Police Department. When individuals with these licenses travel to other states or when residents of other states travel here they depend on reciprocity to transport and carry a firearm legally. Any individual with a Pennsylvania License to Carry a Firearm or any person with a license from a state that Pennsylvania is reciprocal with may safely and legally carry a firearm in our Commonwealth. As such Pennsylvania residents may legally carry in our Commonwealth under a license issued in their county, or they may carry under a license issued by a reciprocal state such as Florida. This legal method of carry under reciprocity is what has been derisively termed the "Florida Loophole."

The term loophole is inappropriate here, however, as this reciprocity is not an accidental happening under the law. The language in Pennsylvania law providing for carry under reciprocal licenses was deliberately written, solidly examined by the legislature at the time of its passage, and has withstood all prior scrutiny by the General Assembly of which you are now a part. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Super-PAC, Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, CeaseFire PA, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, among other groups and individuals, have all incorrectly stated that this reciprocity allows individuals to obtain firearms licenses with looser standards than our Pennsylvania License to Carry a Firearm. For your convenience I've provided one quote from each of these individuals or groups below:

"Too dangerous for a gun permit here? Go to Florida where the laws are looser and voila you've got a concealed gun permit that works here" (Independence USA PAC, 2012).

"But as I have said regarding the 'Florida loophole', which allows someone denied a Pennsylvania license to obtain a license in Florida and use reciprocity to carry the concealed weapon in Pennsylvania, we need to ensure that Pennsylvania laws are not undermined" (Kathleen Kane, 2012).

"But people who have had a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit revoked, application denied, or know they would be found ineligible for a permit if they applied at all - have discovered a loophole that allows them to apply for a permit from another state with which Pennsylvania shares reciprocity, and use that permit to carry concealed here" (CeaseFire PA, 2012).

"Here in Pennsylvania a gun loophole lets convicted criminals carry concealed weapons even after they've been denied a local permit" (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 2012).

The real tragedy of the above quotes is not just the outright lie that Florida's licensing standards are looser than Pennsylvania's when those standards are in fact stricter. No, the real tragedy is in the accusation that such reciprocity endangers our communities. It is at this point that a few points of Pennsylvania law must be highlighted.

The first is that Pennsylvania is 'shall issue', meaning that everyone who qualifies for a license to carry a firearm is supposed to receive one. Pennsylvania also prohibits many convicted criminals from owning a firearm and those prohibitions do not allow for such individuals to legally carry under other state's licenses. Any individual who is prohibited from owning or carrying a firearm under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6105 is legally ineligible to carry under a reciprocal license.

Given this information, the obvious question arises of how individuals can be denied a license to carry a firearm here and still obtain one elsewhere. After all, those who want to close this 'loophole' are stating that dangerous and violent criminals are doing so. The entire issue centers around one small clause in Pennsylvania's licensing statutes and the application of it by a select number of Sheriffs and the Philadelphia Police Department's Gun Permit Unit.

That clause states that "A license shall not be issued to ... An individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety" (18 Pa.C.S. § 6109(e)(1)(i)). You may be wondering what the legal definition for the terms 'character' and 'reputation' are, and you would be correct to wonder because the terms are left undefined by statute. Not only that, but what standards can an individual's character be evaluated under? Well, the law does not state.

What has resulted from the vague wording of the law is a process within the City of Philadelphia whereby nearly every possible excuse to use this clause to deny or revoke a license has been tried. What is made abundantly clear by the City of Philadelphia is that they will use past arrests to deny license applicants even if such arrests resulted in acquittals or the charges were dismissed or withdrawn without a conviction. If an individual is applying for or possesses a license to carry a firearm issued by the Philadelphia Police Department that individual is subject to a judgment that they are 'guilty until proven innocent' and not 'innocent until proven guilty'.

In testimony before the Pennsylvania House Committee on Judiciary, at a public hearing on House Bill 2536 of the 2009-2010 Regular Session, Lieutenant Lisa King from the Philadelphia Police Department stated, "The Philadelphia Police Department reviews and grants permits based upon the guidelines established in Pennsylvania code 6109, which enables us to prevent individuals who pose a threat to the community to receive a Pennsylvania permit to carry a concealed gun." As established above, there are no set standards to define an individual's character or reputation set into Pennsylvania law.

Other Commonwealth agencies that issue professional licenses are limited by law on how they may consider past arrests. This is due to the strict provisions of Pennsylvania Code, specifically 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 9124, which states in part:

"The following information shall not be used in consideration of an application for a license, certificate, registration or permit: (1) Records of arrest if there is no conviction of a crime based on the arrest. (2) Convictions which have been annulled or expunged. (3) Convictions of a summary offense. (4) Convictions for which the individual has received a pardon from the Governor. (5) Convictions which do not relate to the applicant's suitability for the license, certificate, registration or permit."

In the issuance of such licenses, certificates, registration, and permits individuals are treated as innocent until proven guilty. Such treatment follows the historical nature of the American Criminal Justice system and provides strong protections for those wrongly accused of crimes. Yet in the issuance of a license to carry a firearm no such protection is offered to applicants or holders of such licenses. At the hearing for House Bill 2536, Kim Stolfer, the Chairman of Firearms Owners Against Crime, PAC, stated that "freedom should not be taken unless there's a conviction" and he stated this after repeated attempts by Representative Lentz to justify treating license applicants and license holders as guilty until proven innocent. The whole conversation and hearing is lengthy, but it is available online in a video entitled "H.B. 2536 - Kim Stolfer from the Firearm Owners Against Crime testifies before the committee" and is in multiple parts. Official records from the hearing are also available from the House BMC Archives if you should wish to review them.

The individuals obtaining reciprocal licenses from Florida that are accused of being dangerous criminals are not convicted criminals. They are individuals who have found that arrests, not convictions, but simply arrests on their records will be used by the Philadelphia Police Department to treat them as guilty until proven innocent under a blatant abuse of a vague and undefined section of Pennsylvania law. Unless the standards such as those implemented to protect the innocent who apply for professional licenses are applied by law to applicants and holders of licenses to carry firearms closing the poorly termed 'Florida loophole' will only further the resolve of Pennsylvania officials to treat citizens as guilty without proof and without conviction and to treat individuals as guilty when charged rather than when actually found guilty in a court of law. Such treatment makes a mockery of due process.

The entire issue of the 'Florida loophole' is one that only exists because Philadelphia and other counties seek to deny or revoke licenses to carry firearms based upon non-conviction criminal history information. Were this Commonwealth's General Assembly to review and correct this problem, and were the General Assembly to correct the other abuses of applicants and licensees committed by the Philadelphia Gun Permit Unit and some county sheriffs then I do not believe that this entire issue would not even be a matter of discussion or debate. These abuses are what undermine Pennsylvania law and Pennsylvania authority over those who carry firearms in this Commonwealth.

It is not the strict licensing standards of Florida or other states that undermine our laws, but rather our own inability to address the problems in our own statutes that does so. Reciprocity with other states currently protects the rights of Pennsylvanians to defend themselves and allows citizens who are treated as guilty until proven innocent to uphold their innocence despite the best efforts of Pennsylvania officials to deny them due process. We must protect reciprocity and not weaken it. Should legislative efforts be made to undermine current reciprocity agreements or should our Attorney General-elect seek to destroy reciprocity agreements through bureaucratic means I encourage you and I implore you to look at the true facts of the issue and defend reciprocity as it stands today. This is but a brief overview of the issue at hand, but I hope it provides you guidance on the matter as this new session begins. As always should you need or desire more information I will gladly provide it to the best that I am able.

Sincerely,

...
IronSight, proud to be a member of pa2a.org since Sep 2012.
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#2
State AGs office handles reciprocity.
Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum
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#3
Warpt762x39;48558 Wrote:State AGs office handles reciprocity.

Under the authority given by the laws written and passed by the General Assembly, sure. What's your point, did I incorrectly state a point of fact in the letter regarding control over the process?
IronSight, proud to be a member of pa2a.org since Sep 2012.
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#4
I think it is a good introduction to the issue and will let them know people do care about their rights - if not make them think about their current position.

Thank you for being willing to undertake this endeavor.
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#5
IronSight;48556 Wrote:~snip~

The letter is as follows, thank you in advance to those who offer any feedback.

...

Welcome to Harrisburg,

I would like to first offer you a congratulations on your election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. As you begin [your journey representing] to represent the people of this Commonwealth one issue that will most certainly arise is that [of] over firearms' license reciprocity. Most likely you will hear about this issue [via] under the poorly chosen title of the "Florida Loophole". [Please accept this letter as an introduction of this important issue as well as a brief] This letter serves as an opening introduction to this matter and provides a short description of my position on this issue.

Firearm's license reciprocity is a critical aspect of the right to bear arms both in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Across our great Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of individuals possess a {capitalize the L, T, C, & F -->} license to carry a firearm [(LTCF)] issued by a [county] Sheriff or [the chief of police of a city of the first class] by the Philadelphia Police Department. When individuals with [a LTCF] these licenses travel to other states or when residents of other states [with a valid license/permit] travel here they depend on reciprocity to [be able to] transport and carry a firearm legally. Any individual with a Pennsylvania [LTCF] License to Carry a Firearm or any person with a license from a state that Pennsylvania [has reciprocity with]is reciprocal with may safely and legally carry a firearm in our Commonwealth. As such Pennsylvania residents may legally carry [a firearm] in our Commonwealth under a license issued [by] in their county [sheriff or chief of police in the case of a city of the first class], or they may carry [a firearm with a valid] under a license issued by a reciprocal state such as Florida. This legal method of [legally carrying a firearm via] carry under reciprocity is what has been derisively [coined] termed the "Florida Loophole."

~snip~
...





  Feedback, I think you're trying to hard to sound official, even lawyer like. I think a little more simplistic approach would be better.

That said, great effort and thanks for your work.

I have to leave for an MRI on my shoulder, possible rotator problem, but I can continue when I get back if you like the direction I took.

Here is an edit of the beginning of your letter.

RED would be deleted

Blue would be added
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#6
soberbyker;48623 Wrote:
IronSight;48556 Wrote:~snip~

The letter is as follows, thank you in advance to those who offer any feedback.

...

Welcome to Harrisburg,

I would like to first offer you a congratulations on your election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. As you begin [your journey representing] to represent the people of this Commonwealth one issue that will most certainly arise is that [of] over firearms' license reciprocity. Most likely you will hear about this issue [via] under the poorly chosen title of the "Florida Loophole". [Please accept this letter as an introduction of this important issue as well as a brief] This letter serves as an opening introduction to this matter and provides a short description of my position on this issue.

Firearm's license reciprocity is a critical aspect of the right to bear arms both in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Across our great Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of individuals possess a {capitalize the L, T, C, & F -->} license to carry a firearm [(LTCF)] issued by a [county] Sheriff or [the chief of police of a city of the first class] by the Philadelphia Police Department. When individuals with [a LTCF] these licenses travel to other states or when residents of other states [with a valid license/permit] travel here they depend on reciprocity to [be able to] transport and carry a firearm legally. Any individual with a Pennsylvania [LTCF] License to Carry a Firearm or any person with a license from a state that Pennsylvania [has reciprocity with]is reciprocal with may safely and legally carry a firearm in our Commonwealth. As such Pennsylvania residents may legally carry [a firearm] in our Commonwealth under a license issued [by] in their county [sheriff or chief of police in the case of a city of the first class], or they may carry [a firearm with a valid] under a license issued by a reciprocal state such as Florida. This legal method of [legally carrying a firearm via] carry under reciprocity is what has been derisively [coined] termed the "Florida Loophole."

~snip~
...



Feedback, I think you're trying to hard to sound official, even lawyer like. I think a little more simplistic approach would be better.

That said, great effort and thanks for your work.

I have to leave for an MRI on my shoulder, possible rotator problem, but I can continue when I get back if you like the direction I took.

Here is an edit of the beginning of your letter.

RED would be deleted

Blue would be added





Thank you, both for the above and for any later feedback. I tend to write in a more official tone by habit, part of that is due to the large volume of formal writing I'm doing for school (in the range of 5 to 20 pages per week).

I'll definitely be using some of your suggestions.
IronSight, proud to be a member of pa2a.org since Sep 2012.
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#7
IronSight;48731 Wrote:
soberbyker;48623 Wrote:Feedback, I think you're trying to hard to sound official, even lawyer like. I think a little more simplistic approach would be better.

That said, great effort and thanks for your work.

I have to leave for an MRI on my shoulder, possible rotator problem, but I can continue when I get back if you like the direction I took.

Here is an edit of the beginning of your letter.

RED would be deleted

Blue would be added





Thank you, both for the above and for any later feedback. I tend to write in a more official tone by habit, part of that is due to the large volume of formal writing I'm doing for school (in the range of 5 to 20 pages per week).

I'll definitely be using some of your suggestions.


Ok, it's a long letter and I'll probably to get to it in chunks, but like you said, you have time.
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#8
Here's a little more ...

IronSight;48556 Wrote:~snip~

The letter is as follows, thank you in advance to those who offer any feedback.

...

Welcome to Harrisburg,

I would like to first offer you a congratulations on your election to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. As you begin [your journey representing] to represent the people of this Commonwealth one issue that will most certainly arise is that [of] over firearms' license reciprocity. Most likely you will hear about this issue [via] under the poorly chosen title of the "Florida Loophole". [Please accept this letter as an introduction of this important issue as well as a brief] This letter serves as an opening introduction to this matter and provides a short description of my position on this issue.

Firearm's license reciprocity is a critical aspect of the right to bear arms both in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Across our great Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of individuals possess a {capitalize the L, T, C, & F -->} license to carry a firearm [(LTCF)] issued by a [county] Sheriff or [the chief of police of a city of the first class] by the Philadelphia Police Department. When individuals with [a LTCF] these licenses travel to other states or when residents of other states [with a valid license/permit] travel here they depend on reciprocity to [be able to] transport and carry a firearm legally. Any individual with a Pennsylvania [LTCF] License to Carry a Firearm or any person with a license from a state that Pennsylvania [has reciprocity with]is reciprocal with may safely and legally carry a firearm in our Commonwealth. As such Pennsylvania residents may legally carry [a firearm] in our Commonwealth under a license issued [by] in their county [sheriff or chief of police in the case of a city of the first class], or they may carry [a firearm with a valid] under a license issued by a reciprocal state such as Florida. This legal method of [legally carrying a firearm via] carry under reciprocity is what has been derisively [coined] termed the "Florida Loophole."

[There is no "loophole", as it's called.] The term loophole is inappropriate here, however, as this reciprocity is not an accidental happening under the law. The language in Pennsylvania law providing for [the] carry [of firearms] under reciprocal [agreements] licenses was deliberately written, solidly examined by the legislature at the time of its passage, and has withstood all prior scrutiny by the Pennsylvania General Assembly[,] of which you are now [privileged to be] a [member of] part. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Super-PAC, Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, CeaseFire PA, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, [as well as] among other groups and individuals, have all incorrectly [portrayed] stated that this reciprocity allows individuals to obtain firearms licenses from other states with looser standards [less restrictive] than our Pennsylvania [puts forth to obtain a LTCF] License to Carry a Firearm. For your [perusal I have included] convenience I've provided [a few quotes that reflect what I am referring to.] one quote from each of these individuals or groups below:

"Too dangerous for a gun permit here? Go to Florida where the laws are looser and voila you've got a concealed gun permit that works here" (Independence USA PAC, 2012).

"But as I have said regarding the 'Florida loophole', which allows someone denied a Pennsylvania license to obtain a license in Florida and use reciprocity to carry the concealed weapon in Pennsylvania, we need to ensure that Pennsylvania laws are not undermined" (Kathleen Kane, 2012).

"But people who have had a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit revoked, application denied, or know they would be found ineligible for a permit if they applied at all - have discovered a loophole that allows them to apply for a permit from another state with which Pennsylvania shares reciprocity, and use that permit to carry concealed here" (CeaseFire PA, 2012).

"Here in Pennsylvania a gun loophole lets convicted criminals carry concealed weapons even after they've been denied a local permit" (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 2012).

The real tragedy of the above quotes is not just the [glaring misinformation] outright lie that Florida's licensing standards are [less stringent]looser than Pennsylvania's when [in fact Florida is actually stricter, in addition to a background check they require a fingerprint check, which Pennsylvania does not.] those standards are in fact stricter. No, the real tragedy is in the accusation that such reciprocity [agreements] endangers our communities.

{new paragraph} [I'd like to now highlight] It is at this point that a few points of Pennsylvania [firearms] law. must be highlighted.

The first is that Pennsylvania is [a] 'shall issue' [state], meaning that everyone [anyone] who qualifies for a [LTCF, as laid out in Pennsylvania law,] license to carry a firearm is supposed to [be granted] receive one. Pennsylvania also prohibits many convicted criminals [for certain crimes] from owning a firearm[.] and those [These] prohibitions do [would] not allow [these] for such individuals to legally [obtain a LTCF, whether from PA or another state.] carry under other state's licenses. Any individual who is prohibited from owning or carrying a firearm under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6105 is legally ineligible to carry under a reciprocal license.
...
Reply
#9
Great and noble effort, however, I agree with previous comments regarding length. These new arrivals will be absolutely overwhelmed with information and acclimation, especially on their first day in office. Some editors like to paraphrase Shakespeare and proclaim, "brevity is the better part of valor!" I tend to be in this camp.
[Image: sigban.jpg]

Gman106, proud to be the original "throbbing member" of pa2a.org since Sep 2012.
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#10
Will Kane be the AG-elect or the AG when you deliver the letters?
NRA (Life), GOA, FOAC (Life), NAGR, AMGOA

RocketFoot's Minion since 09-07-2012
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