Hi, I’m Mike Giaramita, Independent Program Attorney with U.S. LawShield of Pennsylvania. Today, we’re going to discuss why someone could be denied a License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”), and what happens after the denial. In Pennsylvania, you generally need an LTCF to carry a handgun concealed or in a vehicle. There are a bunch of exceptions and caveats that we won’t go over today, but that’s the general rule. Keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, you aren’t obligated to prove some kind of need for an LTCF. Instead, unless you meet one of the criteria that make you ineligible, the issuing authority must grant your license.
The main reason I see people denied a license to carry is the Character and Reputation clause. Under 18 Pa. C.S. § 6109, a person is ineligible for a License to Carry Firearms if they’re an individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.
As you can see, that’s a pretty malleable standard. There’s a lot of room for discretion by the issuing authority, which is usually the sheriff, or it would be the chief of police if you live in a City of the First Class. We also have some bad case law in this area, where if you were charged with a crime and acquitted, you can still be denied a license based on character and reputation. Also, if you’re asked about arrests during the interview process and don’t provide a truthful response, that could serve as the basis of a character and reputation denial.
Moving on to number two, a lot of people don’t realize that any conviction under Title 35, the Controlled Substance, Drug Device and Cosmetic Act, renders you ineligible for an LTCF. This means that someone could have a low-level misdemeanor that wouldn’t prohibit them from possessing firearms, and they could be ineligible for an LTCF under Pennsylvania law. Something as seemingly insignificant as possession of a small amount of marijuana or even possession of drug paraphernalia could prevent that person from getting an LTCF. This doesn’t disappear with time either. Unfortunately, even if 40 years have passed, you would still be ineligible, unless and until you were granted the relief required to restore your rights.
Something I see far too often is people who are denied an LTCF because they have something on their record they either forgot about or didn’t realize would affect their gun rights. Please don’t take these applications lightly. If you have ever had any criminal charges, any juvenile offenses, any mental health treatment, any restraining orders; please double-check with an experienced firearms attorney before filling out the application. Even if you think it’s inconvenient, it will be well worth it in the long run. The whole, “fill it out and let’s see” method is a recipe for disaster, and that’s how people end up facing criminal charges.
What Happens If You’re Denied
Finally, I want to talk about what happens if you’re denied. There are two general categories for why you’d be denied. First would be if you failed the PICS check, and PICS stands for the Pennsylvania Instant Check System. This happens when the Pennsylvania state police issue a denial after your background check. In these instances, the state police are contending that something in your background renders you ineligible for a License to Carry Firearms.
To challenge this you’d have to fill out a PICS Denial Challenge Form and send it into the state police. It is highly recommended that you don’t do this without an attorney. You will be signing the challenge form affirming that the information you provide is accurate, so you want to ensure that it is. If your challenge shows that the state police simply made a mistake, they will issue a reversal of the denial. If they stick to their guns, so to speak, and uphold the denial, you can then appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, who will hold a hearing. Again, it is recommended that you don’t go to this hearing without an experienced firearms attorney, because failure to raise appropriate arguments could negatively impact your rights.
The second general category for why you could be denied is when the sheriff or the chief of police issues the denial. In these cases, the state police have not contended that you’re ineligible for a license. You’ve passed the PICS check. Instead, the issuing authority decided to deny you based on the character and reputation clause. We’ve seen some pretty ridiculous reasons for denial; unpaid parking tickets being towards the top of that list. In these cases, you must file an appeal as soon as possible because you only have 30 days. In Philadelphia, the appeal goes to the Board of License and Inspection Review. In all other counties, you file your appeal in the Court of Common Pleas.
We’ve successfully challenged numerous license denials over the years. So, if you’ve been denied, it isn’t necessarily the end of the road, but most importantly, you want to be sure that you’re not filing a challenge when you’re ineligible and potentially making things worse.
For more information about license to carry eligibility and denial, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with an Independent Program Attorney.