Skip to comments.Sheriff refuses to sign machine gun forms
Posted on 04/29/2013 7:22:25 PM PDT by Born Conservative
Foster Township gun collector Thomas F. Braddock Jr. wants to buy a 9 mm machine gun from a dealer in Georgia as an investment.
He wanted to proceed with the deal by getting the signature of Luzerne County interim sheriff Jack Robshaw. But Robshaw didn't even consider signing the federal government form to authorize the purchase.
"He just flat out refused," said Braddock, a retired Army National Guard major and former employee with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. "I have had a security clearance for 25 years. I am certainly not a criminal."
Robshaw is concerned about civilians, who are not law enforcement officers, acquiring fully automatic weapons that could end up being used in mass shootings, noting they can fire "hundreds of rounds per minute." He said he would rather lose his job than sign the form.
Braddock, 57, is still able to purchase the machine gun he wants by setting up a gun trust, but he is upset he now has to spend extra time and money to get the machine gun.
His story is typical in Pennsylvania, said Joshua Prince, a Berks County attorney who specializes in gun ownership and Second Amendment issues. Law enforcement officials don't have the ability to simply refuse to consider the questions on the form from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Prince said.
Robshaw believes he can refuse to sign the form for any reason. The form authorizes transfer and sales of weapons regulated by National Firearms Act and requires the signature of the "chief law enforcement officer," or CLEO, in a jurisdiction.
NFA-regulated weapons include fully automatic guns manufactured before 1986, short-barreled rifles or shotguns, destructive devices and suppressors, also known as silencers.
Lackawanna County Sheriff John Szymanski said he imposed a moratorium on signing the ATF forms for NFA weapons after the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut in December.
"We wanted to take another look at this," Szymanski said. "I am not saying we won't do it anymore. Right after Sandy Hook, we had two requests for silencers. These requests come from gun collectors. They want exotic weapons."
Szymanski said he wants to consult with the ATF on the process, explaining his signature is "a rubber stamp" for decisions made by the ATF.
Prince disagrees, explaining the CLEO certifies three things on the ATF form - the applicant lives in the jurisdiction; the CLEO has no knowledge the applicant will use the firearm unlawfully; and the CLEO has no knowledge the applicant is prohibited from owning the weapon.
When the forms are submitted, the ATF does its own background check, and the applicant will go through a background check when picking up the weapon from a dealer, Prince said.
In Pennsylvania, county sheriffs are often asked to sign the ATF forms because they are in charge of concealed weapon permits, Prince said. But the ATF form says a CLEO could be a district attorney, a local police chief or a state police barrack captain.
Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea said he signs about one form a month regarding NFA weapons.
"I don't blame the sheriff," DeAndrea said of Robshaw's stance. "His staff isn't local law enforcement."
Local officers know more about residents, including "things that might not show up" on computer background check, DeAndrea said.
Robshaw has been Luzerne County's interim sheriff since March 2012. He said he has never signed a form for an NFA weapon and is asked to sign the form a couple times a month.
The county's home-rule charter last year abolished a state-mandated system of government, which included a sheriff elected to a four-year term. Under home rule, the sheriff is an appointed official who serves in the administration as an appointed county manager.
"I am not in favor of an appointed sheriff," Prince said, noting Northampton County is the only other county in the state with an appointed sheriff.
Luzerne County Councilman Jim Bobeck said he supports Robshaw's stance against signing ATF forms for NFA weapons, adding it demonstrates why voters should not elect the county's sheriff.
"The appointed person used professional judgment without placation to outside influences or having his decision turn into electoral fodder," Bobeck sad.
Szymanski has been elected to eight terms as Lackawanna County sheriff. He is not running for re-election this year.
Previous Luzerne County sheriffs, John Gilligan and Mike Savokinas, signed the ATF forms, said Chris Scoda, owner of Advanced Arms Gun Shop in Pittston. Scoda has been involved in about 50 machine gun deals, adding the transfer process can last eight months and the price of typical machine gun can range from $4,000 to $10,000.
"It depends on the make and model," Scoda said.
Since 1986, federal law has prohibited ownership of newly manufactured machine guns to civilians. Machine guns are subject to a $200 tax every time ownership changes.
The ATF reported 488,065 machine guns in its national registry, as of March 2012, with 17,384 in Pennsylvania. Almost 3.2 million NFA weapons were registered in the U.S., with 197,217 in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the most difficult jurisdictions to get CLEO signatures, Prince said. Some clients considered filing a lawsuit to get CLEO signatures but decided it was less expensive to just get NFA weapons through a gun trust, Prince said.
"It violates equal protection," Prince added, asserting counties and jurisdictions can't have different standards on signing the ATF forms.
Prince said he talks to about 10 people a week about setting up a gun trust and charges $650. He said he once set up a gun trust for a police officer in Philadelphia because he couldn't get a CLEO signature and wanted a short-barreled rifle as "a duty weapon."
Gun trusts have other benefits, such as designating multiple trustees so more than one person can legally have access to and possession of the NFA weapon, Prince said. Other benefits include passing weapons onto heirs.
A gun dealer is required to conduct a background check for the representative of the trust who picks up a NFA firearm, Prince sad. But the New York Times reported in February that a loophole in federal regulations exempts a gun trust's members from requirements that apply to individual buyers, including being fingerprinted and undergoing a background check.
Christopher J. Dorner, the former Los Angeles police officer who was wanted in multiple killings, claimed he used a gun trust to buy silencers and a short-barreled rifle from a gun store in Nevada without a background check. Dorner died Feb. 12 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, during a stand-off with police.
“$4,000 to $10,000”?? Try $4000 to $100,000. And sue that unelected sheriff out of office.
I may stand corrected, but i am fairly certain no legal NFA weapoan has ever been used in a crime. Not one, ever.
It’s his own fought for living in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
if you need a permit then you need permission
permission can be withheld
rights require no permission.
rights cannot be withheld... only denied
tyrants suppress or deny rights... not a nation of laws
Bad thing to bring up......could be argued as a reason for the jackboots to register everything.
MG’s are the 3rd rail of the 2nd amendment....shouldn’t be. Just are. Our side even argued as such in the Heller case even though the bastards in the 30’s made the NFA of 34 a revenue law just to avoid the militia question. $200 in 1934 would be about $10k today. An effective ban.
They are what we should own if GI Joe has them.
Cop in Dayton used a CIII M-16 in the late 80’s to whack his girlfriend. That is only criminal use of a legal NFA I know of.
This guy has it exactly backwards.
I can remember when the NRA required you get the permission of your local sheriff before you could join.
What's interesting is that the Bill of Rights, amending the Constitution, means that the 2nd logically puts its restriction on even the ability of the government to tax (art 1, sec 8), it could therefore be argued that the NFA is entirely contra-constitutional on that point alone.
Is the good (bad) Sheriff subject to citizen arrest?
Robshaw is a punk.
I worked with a dealer who had I don’ remembers what was necessary o what class it was butknew+ whatever it was he one which
Only trained law enforcement personnel can be trusted with fully automatic weapons, and we know there has never been a peace officer that has abuse alcohol, their wives or gone over the edge and attacked anyone, OH HELL NO!, only us untrustworthy CIVILIANS would ever do that!
Can’t sue the sheriff. He’s under no obligation whatsoever to sign.
Sue the feds for NFA law transgressing the 2nd. Contact the Heller Foundation.
I already had a decent sized collection, and already had several legal conceal carry permits.
(I moved around a lot in my job)
I decided against it, due to the onerous terms involved with acquiring the required Federal permit.
The deal killer for me, besides the annual costs involved, was to willingly “submit to 24/7, weapons inspections on demand, without a sworn search warrant” by any and every level of LEOs.
Yes, I have fired off a few bursts of full auto just for fun, when I had the chance.
It wasn’t worth it to me, surrendering my 4Th Ammendment rights, to own an exotic and expensive item.
No. In PA a citizen's arrest requires the citizen to have actually witnessed the felony for which he is placing the criminal under arrest. He may then physically detain the criminal until accredited LEOs accept custody.
I believe there is one ( and one “possible”)instance. It involved a Mac11 in .380, and the shooter was a police officer who murdered a police informant. This link has the details. http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcfullau.html
Someone please identify this 9mm “machine gun”, I can’t think of any.
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