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Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 6105 Cannot Restore Firearm Rights Lost Due to Federal Law

Pa. State Police v. Paulshock
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
November 20, 2003

Holding: Restoration of firearm rights pursuant to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6105 serves to lift state imposed firearm disability, but will not lift firearms disabilities imposed by federal law.

Why This Case is Important: 18 Pa. Const. Stat. § 6105 establishes the convictions in Pennsylvania that will lead to firearm disabilities. Section 6105(d) gives a defendant post-conviction relief by restoring his or her firearm rights. Section 6105(d) should not be confused with 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9122, which is Pennsylvania’s criminal record expungement statute. Although Section 6105(d) removes a disability arising from a defendant’s conviction, it does not serve to completely expunge a conviction. Section 9122 carries independent requirements for criminal record expungement, and an individual’s records will be expunged only when those requirements are met.

Although Section 6105(d) removes the State ban on firearm possession, it has no effect on a federal firearm possession restriction. Pursuant to the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, specifically 18 U.S.C. 922(g), a person who is convicted of a federal crime will not be able to possess a firearm. A defendant can be banned from possessing a firearm both under Pennsylvania Statute, Section 6105, and federal statute, Section 922(g). If the defendant seeks and is granted firearm relief under section 6105(d), then the State restriction will be lifted. However, the relief granted pursuant to 6105(d) does not lift the Federal ban. As a result, the defendant restricted under the Federal Act will not be allowed to possess firearms unless both restrictions are lifted.

Section 921 of the Federal Act does provide the requirements for lifting the federal ban. Persons who are pardoned or who have had their criminal records expunged will not be restricted by the Federal Act from owning a firearm. However, as stated above, Section 6105(g) is not a complete criminal expungement. Section 6105(d) only provides relief from state firearms disability. The case provides guidance for understanding these rules.

Facts of This Case: In 1960, the petitioner in this case was convicted for burglary, arson, larceny and malicious mischief. Due to his convictions, he was restricted from possessing a firearm pursuant to Pennsylvania State 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §6105 and federal law 18 U.S.C. § 921. The petitioner sought to restore his firearm rights pursuant to Section 6105(d). The common pleas court granted his request, and the order stated that the petitioner will be able to possess firearms for hunting purposes.

In 1999, the petitioner attempted to purchase a long gun for hunting but he was unable to complete the purchase. The State Police determined that although the State disability had been lifted, the petitioner was still restricted from possessing firearms by federal law. The petitioner sought review from the Office of the Attorney General, which found that the Section 6105(d) firearm relief also lifted the federal ban. The State Police appealed, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania determined that the Section 6105(g) did not lift the ban imposed by the Federal Act.

The Court found that the only relief that Section 6105(d) provided was from the state firearms disability and that the common pleas court could not remove a firearms disability imposed by federal law. The Court determined that petitioners who had their records expunged or civil rights restored would be exempt from the federal ban, and that Section 6105(d) did not expunge the petitioner’s criminal records. The Court stated the only way to expunge records in Pennsylvania was pursuant to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9122. Because section 6105(d) only lifted the state ban, the Court concluded that the petitioner was still restricted from possessing firearms under the Federal Act.

Key Language: Therefore, we find that the only relief that could be granted pursuant to Section 6105(d) is from the state firearms disability imposed under Section 6105(a), and that a common pleas court order could not effectuate removal of firearms disability imposed pursuant to the Federal Act.

Any finding to the contrary would require a finding that Section 6105(d) not only allows for relief from a state firearms disability, but that it also provides for expungement of a criminal history record information, which is unquestionably governed by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9122, and such expungement can only be achieved pursuant to that section.

Expert Advise: “This case establishes the differences between Pennsylvania’s expungement statute and firearm restoration statute. There are different requirements to achieve relief under each section, and attorneys must be keen on not only the requirements but what disabilities are lifted.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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