One problem with LTC’s in Pennsylvania is that how much they cost depends on what county you’re in, despite the fact that the fees for licenses are supposed to be set by law. Such is the problem now cropping up in Lehigh County:
Lehigh County officials are scrambling to figure out if Sheriff Ron Rossi’s office has been illegally overcharging gun owners for licenses to carry concealed firearms.
The sheriff’s office sent legislation to the county commissioners this week asking for the fee to be increased from $25 â€” the amount set by state law â€” to $38. While other counties also charge more than $25 for such licenses, Rossi’s staff began charging the higher fee years ago without legislative approval, spurring a slew of questions and criticism at this week’s commissioners’ meeting.
Commissioner Andy Roman said the county may have “a serious issue here” and called for an audit of the program as well as a legal review to see if people who’ve paid $38 for the licenses are entitled to $13 refunds.
Many sheriffs charge extra for a credit card style license that goes beyond what the state requires. I have no problem with this and hope sheriffs keep doing it, because the result of not pursuing this issue properly is going to be all of us having to carry paper licenses that just aren’t going to last for five years, or fitÂ convenientlyÂ in a wallet. I do think the sheriffs need to inform applicants that the paper options is available at the state mandated price, however, and many are negligent with that.
But a lot of the fee variance isn’t because of issuing credit card style LTCs, it’s due to varying interpretations of the Sheriff Fee Act. The UFA does not allow for any fee to be charged “other than that provided by this subsection or the Sheriff Fee Act may be assessed by the sheriff for the performance of any background check made pursuant to this act.” While in the previous section, the 5 dollar fee allowed by the Sheriff Fee Act is stipulated, the Act also allows for the following:
In addition to fees provided for in this act, the sheriff shall be paid costs, charges and expenses incident to the performance of an act required by court, order, statute, rule or regulation including, but not limited to, printing costs, publication costs, services of experts, watchmen, postage and mileage, which shall be costs to be paid by the plaintiff, petitioner or person requiring them to be incurred.
That’s pretty broad, and open to interpretation by the Sheriffs, depending on what they want to charge for things. Really, until we get a legislative fix clarifying the intent, the truth us the Sheriffs can legally charge more for a permit than 25 dollars, provided there can be some kind of reasonable relation to the fee and a service (they probably couldn’t, for instance, drive your LTC application around to rack up mileage charges under the Act). I have little doubt that the legislature intended this to be a specific price, but until they reference that specific section of the SFA, this is the situation. The fix for this is likely going to need to come from the legislature.