(PA) Man's gun permit fight hits a snag


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Steve in PA
December 7, 2004, 09:05 AM
Politicians enacted this bill, but the police are getting the blame.

Man's gun permit fight hits a snag (http://www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/news/local/10353991.htm)

Man's gun permit fight hits a snag

Court reverses ruling that allowed area man to carry weapon. Original denial came after tax-evasion plea.

By TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER

tmorgan@leader.net


WILKES-BARRE - A Sugarloaf Township man's 7-year battle to regain his right to carry a concealed weapon suffered a major setback Monday when the state's Commonwealth Court reversed a ruling that granted him the permit.

The decision is the latest in a long, complex legal battle Michael S. Pecora has waged with the Pennsylvania State Police and the Luzerne County Sheriff's Office.

Pecora had held a concealed weapons permit for about 35 years, but the sheriff's office denied him renewal in 1996 after a state police records check showed Pecora pleaded no contest in 1978 to federal income tax evasion.

The problem: In 1996 the state's Uniform Firearms Act was amended to prohibit persons convicted of crimes punishable by more than one year from owning a firearm. At the time of Pecora's plea, the sentence for tax evasion fit that criteria.

The controversial amendment has led to several court challenges because it resulted in some people convicted of relatively minor, non-violent crimes being permanently banned from owning firearms. Pecora and other plaintiffs have maintained the law unfairly penalizes them because it is being applied retroactively.

Pecora twice took his case to Luzerne County Court, arguing his conviction dealt with a crime involving business, therefore it fell under an exception within the Firearms Act. Two county judges ruled in his favor, once in 1998 and again in 2003, but state police persisted in their appeals and the case landed before Commonwealth Court in September.

The latest appeal before Commonwealth Court was unusual in that Pecora's attorney, Anthony Lucadamo of Hazleton, conceded the Firearms Act precludes Pecora from owning a firearm. That would make the issuance of a concealed weapons permit a moot point, but Lucadamo said on Monday that Pecora persisted with the appeal out of principle.

"He had the license to carry a firearm for many years. He felt strongly it should not be taken away from him," Lucadamo said. "It was principle for him from day one. He knew there was no practical way he could carry a firearm."

Lucadamo tried to distinguish the issue of the gun permit from the ownership issue, saying the Firearms Act prohibition dealt only with ownership.

The Commonwealth Court rejected the argument, noting such a distinction would lead to an "absurd result" that a person could be prohibited from owning a gun, yet be entitled to hold a concealed weapons permit.

Lucadamo said he does not know if Pecora will appeal the case further. He could ask the state Supreme Court to hear the case, but the high court hears only a limited number of cases each year, so there is no guarantee it would consider the appeal.

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Coronach
December 7, 2004, 10:28 AM
One would think that ex post facto would apply to the issue of gun ownership in this instance. He plead no contest in 1978, and they changed the law in 1996. I'm curious why this angle was not taken. Any legal eagles wanna chime in?

Mike

SMMAssociates
December 7, 2004, 02:07 PM
IMHO (and IANAL), ex post facto was not accepted by the USSC in regards to the Lautenberg Amendement, so why bother?

That one screwed people who'd picked up misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence as well as felonies. Ex post facto, too, IMO....

My own view is that both are examples of zero tolerance meaning zero thinking.

Non-violent felons and all misdemeanants, after the "penalty" is served/paid, should be free and clear. At worst, after a hearing....

rritter
December 7, 2004, 04:01 PM
I'm not a lawyer, but I think the 'Ex post facto' provision would only apply if the person was arrested and charged with having owned a gun between 1978 and 1996 (i.e., applying the ownership ban to the years before it was enacted). Since the state is only applying it after the law's enactment, it's not an ex post facto case.

carpettbaggerr
December 7, 2004, 04:52 PM
Well, if he knew he'd lose the right to possess firearms, he might have contested the charges. The state is increasing the penalty for his crime 25 years later.

Though, it's obvious the man is dangerous. We're all much safer he's been relieved of the weapons he carried for 35 years......

gripper
December 7, 2004, 06:18 PM
this same thing happened to me here in Massachusetts;not for taxes,but an old OUI conviction years before they "ammended "the Ma. gun law(Ch180) in 1998.Only recently(thanksgiving ) have I been able to get an avenue of appeal(Ch150,acts of 2004)put to the Firearms Reciew Board(new entity).Here's to hope springing eternal.If not...NH isn't far....

Brett Bellmore
December 8, 2004, 08:08 AM
The courts have basicly gutted the ex post facto clause, but it doesn't help that the courts regard gun ownership as a privilege, and so refuse to acknowlege that prohibiting someone from owning a gun is a "punishment". As far as they're concerned, it's just an administrative thing, and you've got no basis to object.

Diggler
December 8, 2004, 09:17 AM
If I were him, I'd carry openly everywhere just to give the finger to the powers that be.

sturmruger
December 8, 2004, 01:50 PM
He can't carry openly because the poor guy can't legally own any firearms.

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