No More Carry Permits for a Pennsylvania County This Year

A budget dispute and possible deficit has resulted in the shutdown of the Elk County, PA sheriff’s office for the rest of the year. This is interesting because the sheriff issues concealed carry permits in Pennsylvania, so anyone who needed to renew in that county before the end of the month or anyone who needs a permit quickly is just out of luck.

According to the report, the projected deficit was $9,000, and the Sheriff has sued to have the office re-opened. However, that suit isn’t even being heard until Friday and they have to bring in a judge from outside of the county to preside over the mess.

This is an interesting issue for Pennsylvania gun owners. What happens if the only office that can issue a concealed carry license just closes up shop? I don’t know if anything like this has happened before in the Commonwealth.

15 thoughts on “No More Carry Permits for a Pennsylvania County This Year”

  1. My first, only slightly educated guess is that it is certainly illegal, and probably (state) unconstitutional to close down the sheriffs office for any reason except short-term, act of God emergencies.

    Obvious analogies are, what if they closed the other row offices, such that people couldn’t obtain marriage licenses, or settle estates in a timely way as codified by state law?

    1. I was very surprised that the word “sheriff” only appears once in the state constitution:

      County Government

      Section 4.

      County officers shall consist of commissioners, controllers, or auditors, district attorneys, public defenders, treasurers, sheriffs, registers of wills, recorders of deeds, prothonotaries, clerks of the courts, and such others as may from time to time be provided by law. County officers, except for public defenders who shall be appointed as shall be provided by law, shall be elected at the municipal elections and shall hold their offices for the term of four years, beginning on the first Monday of January next after their election, and until their successors shall be duly qualified; all vacancies shall be filled in such a manner as may be provided by law. County officers shall be paid only by salary as provided by law for services performed for the county or any other governmental unit. Fees incidental to the conduct of any county office shall be payable directly to the county or the Commonwealth, or as otherwise provided by law. Three county commissioners shall be elected in each county. In the election of these officers each qualified elector shall vote for no more than two persons, and the three persons receiving the highest number of votes shall be elected. Provisions for county government in this section shall apply to every county except a county which has adopted a home rule charter or an optional form of government. One of the optional forms of county government provided by law shall include the provisions of this section.

      It would appear that if there is a constitutional approach to this situation, it will have to be that elsewhere the state constitution guarantees certain rights to citizens, which only the sheriff’s office is defined by law as permitted to provide.

      Not to go off on a tangent, but its kind of odd that what some people say is “the highest constitutional authority in the county” is only mentioned once in the constitution — and then only to say that the office shall exist, unless it is a home rule or optional form county government, where all bets are off except those codified by the General Assembly.

    1. The last time I checked, Forest County had just over 8,000 residents. Collect a buck from each of them and then have bake sale.

      1. Why would the residents of Forest County care about the Elk County Sheriff’s office? $9000 is like 1/3 if the annual county budget in Elk county.

  2. It is the sheriff’s office only because the Board of Commissioners doesn’t have the authority to unplug any neonatal intensive care units. They choose the nastiest, hurt-the-citizens thing they thought they could get away with. Somehow, this results in voters voting for higher taxes but not voting for better commissioners.

    Any reasonable person would have shut down something non-essential – like the Board of Commissioners, snow removal, the pound, the library, even the public schools. But voters would go crazy if they lost their free day-care, and they would burn down town hall if the pound were closed.

    Here, take your pick of what you would close for a month:

    Did I read that page correctly? The Stackpole Hall Foundation provides county art grants?! I wonder if they have $9000 left in their budget.

    1. I agree with you about the “maximize the pain” strategy. However there are many things (like the public schools) that the county commissioners don’t have the power to shut down, or, they may be more clearly prohibited from shutting down. (As may turn out to be the case with the sheriffs office.)

      Not to apologize for the commissioners, but in a county of 8,000 – 9,000 people, it may well be that the sheriffs office will be least missed. For example, a very quick and dirty calculation for here in Bucks County suggests about 100 people a month renew or apply for a carry permit; but by ratio of populations, in Forest County it might be two people.

      Not that that’s all sheriffs do.

      1. Elk County has a population of 31,000. You know, Forest and Elk are not the same county. Forest, with all the prisons, has more incarcerated residents than it does ones walking the streets.

        1. Big OOPS!

          Even having read the above post, I read “Elk” and then kept thinking “Forest.”

          Getting old. Gotta watchit.

  3. Well, if they can’t afford to issue permits, how can they possibly afford to enforce for a lack of a permit?

    1. In Pennsylvania, virtually no “enforcement” of anything is done by the sheriffs department. Almost all is done by municipal (e.g., township) police or the State Police.

      It was only a short time ago that Pennsylvania Sheriffs departments and officers were acknowledged to have the power to enforce traffic laws.

      (Sorry, it just interests me how people go around preaching that “sheriif is the highest constitutional authority” bullshit, when PA sheriffs have about the same LEO status as school crossing guards — by law.)

      1. In any other state in the country, the County Sheriff is indeed the highest LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER in the county. However, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this is not the case with the County Sheriff being an arm of the Judiciary Branch, not the Executive Branch.

        1. I don’t want to carry on this conversation longer than it deserves, but having taken a few minutes of do some minimal research about Pennsylvania, I want to comment on what I found.

          As mentioned earlier, the word “sheriff” appears exactly once in our current constitution, and that merely to define it as a county office that shall exist. In prior constitutions (1776, 1790, 1838) reference is made that sheriffs would be either appointed or “commissioned” (following election) by the governor. In that way, I gather the office was implicitly part of the executive branch. When the transition to the judicial branch occurred, I do not as yet know, but as far as the state constitution is concerned, that it is part of either branch does not appear to be explicit. And, the current (1968) constitution makes provision that the office need not exist at all, for home rule and some optional form counties.

          But my point in pursuing all of that is this: I don’t know about every other state, and the status of sheriffs in their constitutions, but I would suspect that in many of them, even if the office is defined and protected by their constitution, the exact powers, duties, and responsibilities of sheriff are codified by the legislature, as they have been in Pennsylvania.

          What irks me is people who peddle the idea that the office has some metaphysical powers, or that those powers (generally cited as deriving from the Common Law) exist in spite of the actions of legislatures to codify something different. Being somewhat analogous to (and perhaps incorporated in?) the “sovereign citizen” belief system — abbreviate “belief system” to “BS” — it can be dangerous and tempt innocent people into putting themselves into very dangerous situations.

  4. Here in Ohio we’re allowed to go to neighboring counties; you should agitate for that change in PA.

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