Sheriff George David has illegally denied concealed carry permits to hundreds of people who applied for them, according to some of the state’s top experts on the subject.
An investigation by the Beaver Countian has uncovered over 300 instances in the past two years where individuals who appear to qualify for gun permits under state law, were then denied the right to carry a concealed firearm because of additional policies created by Sheriff David.
Sheriff David requires individuals who are cleared to have a gun permit by the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS is a system run by the Pennsylvania State Police) also be searched in the Pennsylvania Justice Network (JNET) database. David’s policy is to automatically deny gun permits to any individual who JNET shows has been convicted of any crime, even if that crime is not violent, was committed decades ago, and even if the offense is not a disqualifying one under Pennsylvania state law.
The Sheriff spells out this policy succinctly on the county’s official website, writing in bold lettering: “The application must have NO CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS.”
Individuals who have been found guilty of any criminal offense are then required by David to seek an expungement of their conviction through the courts before he will even consider granting a gun permit. If they are unable to get an expungement, or are unwilling to pay the necessary fees to obtain one, they are denied the right to carry a concealed firearm.
The Beaver Countian spoke to several individuals who were denied concealed carry permits because they entered into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for a single DUI charge, and others who were denied because they were convicted of a minor ungraded misdemeanor years ago. These individuals would have been granted gun permits under previous Sheriffs in Beaver County, who denied individuals the right to a concealed carry license only if they were shown to have committed a disqualifying offense by the PICS background check.
Kim Stolfer, who serves as Legislative Chairman for the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League (ACSL), Chairman of Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), and Vice Chairman of PA Sportsmen’s Association (PSA), says David’s policies are a clear violation of state law.
“What Sheriff David is saying to these people, in an egregious way, is that they have no right to protect themselves because of one DUI, because of his own blanket policies, and that’s unconstitutional,” said Stolfer. “What part of his oath does this Sheriff not understand? [...] Sheriff David’s actions fly in the face of everything the legislature intended by the license to carry a concealed firearm provisions. How do I know this? I was part of the original team that wrote the legislation in the 1980s, and then pushed the licensing statute into law. So this is our law, and what Sheriff David has done is added his own provisions to it, and that’s just not legal.”
Sheriff David points to a discretionary provision of the statute to justify his policies, which gives him the authority to deny permits to persons “of character and reputation” that make them “likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.”
Michael McCormick, a 2nd Amendment attorney from Allegheny County whose work has been recognized by the United States Concealed Carry Association, and who has lectured at seminars presented by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on topics of firearms law, said Sheriff David’s reliance on those provisions don’t pass legal muster. “Discretion involves a judgement call based on the facts in connection with a specific individual — here he is establishing a blanket policy. He’s not making a determination of anyone’s character or reputation, he’s setting forth what turns out to be additional legislation, isn’t he? He’s usurping some of the authority that resides in the state legislature itself.”
“Many, many, many very good people have made a mistake and gotten a DUI, and those people are still very good people,” added Attorney McCormick. “Just because someone gets a single DUI, or commits a minor criminal offense, doesn’t automatically mean they then have a character or reputation that would show them to be a danger to public safety.”
“Sheriff David’s position is very contrary to the people’s right to obtain a concealed carry permit,” said McCormick. “Pennsylvania is a ‘shall’ issue state, and it seems the Sheriff in Beaver County is negating that. To refuse a license for any conviction, no matter what it is and without looking into the details of the incident, or even for an ARD… it’s very extreme, and he simply can’t make that policy.”
“These are constitutional freedoms that Sheriff David is rolling into an aluminium ball and tossing into the corner,” said Kim Stolfer. “When you violate a provision of the Uniform Firearms Act, which licensing falls under, it’s a misdemeanor crime. Why is there a double standard in justice? Sheriff David is committing a crime each time he does this, each time he unlawfully denies someone a gun permit he could be put in prison.”
“I know Sheriff David, I’ve sat with Sheriff David, I’ve had dinner with Sheriff David,” concluded Stolfer. “I don’t care if my statements would seem to him to be blunt, or really what he thinks, because I work on the premise that he works for us. He needs to care about what we think of him.”
A previous investigative report by the Beaver Countian showed that Sheriff David may have also been violating state laws regulating gun permit fees. As part of a lawsuit filed by a Beaver County man, Common Pleas Judge Kim Tesla found that Sheriff David was violating individuals’ due process rights with his policies on gun permit revocations.
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter is a named victim in criminal charges filed against Sheriff George David by the Pennsylvania State Police.