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Broken Justice

Judicial Activism on Display in Pennsylvania



Charlotte, NC --( Pennsylvania’s state motto is “Virtue, liberty, and independence,” but liberty took a hit this week with a disturbing ruling by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Given the decision in Commonwealth v. McKown, Keystone State residents cannot lawfully carry concealed in-state on a valid concealed carry license (CCL) issued by another jurisdiction.  Instead, they may use only a Pennsylvania CCL.  This rule applies, moreover, even where Pennsylvania has a reciprocity agreement with the other state.

Hobson Lyle McKown, a Pennsylvania resident, had a Pennsylvania CCL that was revoked on April 14, 2008, although he did not get the notice until April 29 2008. On April 15, McKown applied for, and later obtained, a New Hampshire CCL. In the fall of 2008, McKown was arrested for a concealed carry violation and claimed that, as a valid New Hampshire permit holder, he did not violate the law.

The case centered on two provisions of Pennsylvania law. The first, which makes it an offense to carry a concealed firearm outside of a person’s home or workplace, exempts, among others, “any person” with a valid permit to carry issued by another state. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6106(b)(15)). However, this statutory reciprocity hinges on the Attorney General having made a determination that the firearm laws of the other state are similar to Pennsylvania’s, and the state took the position that this precondition had not been met regarding New Hampshire’s laws (although significantly, the state has a reciprocity agreement with New Hampshire under which each jurisdiction recognizes the other’s CCL).

The second and different provision, § 6109(b), titled “place of application,” states that “an individual” “may” apply for a Pennsylvania CCL, and, if the applicant is a state resident, the application “shall” be made to the sheriff or chief of police in the jurisdiction where the applicant lives.

McKown was convicted, with the trial court finding that his New Hampshire permit did not meet the requirements in § 6106.  According to the trial court, New Hampshire will only issue CCLs to residents of other states who are licensed by their home state, and McKown was not validly licensed by Pennsylvania at the time he applied for the New Hampshire CCL. McKown appealed this decision, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court rejected his appeal.

In doing so, the Superior Court went much further than the trial court, twisting the straightforward language of § 6109(b) to mean that no Pennsylvania resident was entitled to rely on an out-of-state CCL, valid or otherwise. The court interpreted the “shall” wording in § 6109(b) – a direction regarding where residents should apply – as imposing a mandatory and exclusive application process for residents. The court concluded there was “nothing optional with respect to whether a Pennsylvania license is required for a Pennsylvania resident who wants to carry a concealed weapon in Pennsylvania.”

The decision is troubling on multiple levels. It ignores existing law that extends reciprocity to any person’s out-of-state CCL, and reinterprets “any person” to mean “only persons who are not Pennsylvania residents.” If the Pennsylvania legislature had intended that residents be restricted to carrying on in-state permits only, it surely would have expressed this clearly and unequivocally (indeed, bills to do exactly that have been introduced and rejected in recent legislative sessions).

More to the point, the appellate court could have resolved the case (as did the trial court) simply by deciding whether McKown’s New Hampshire permit was valid at the time of his arrest.  Indeed, the court acknowledges as much in its own opinion and holds that the trial court ruled correctly on this point.  Nevertheless, it created a much broader ruling and resolved a hotly contested political issue that should have been left to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

  • 5 User comments to “Judicial Activism on Display in Pennsylvania”

    1. I can’t see anything wrong with this ruling.

      It merely says that a PA resident should have a PA CCL. I live in FL. I have a FL CCL. PA honors it.

      All PA is saying to PA residents is “Don’t get a UT non-resident CCL and expect it to be honored in a place where you ought to have a resident CCL.”

      Makes perfect sense.

    2. DanielinPA on October 29, 2013 at 11:58 AM said:

      Ruling makes sense to me. I’m a PA resident with a valid PA CCL. Article does not mention why Mr. McKown’s PA CCL was revoked. If it was revoked for a valid reason, it is clearly wrong to circumvent the revocation by just getting another state’s CCL. Example: If a person’s PA driver’s license is revoked for reckless driving, would you want them to obtain Ohio DL to get them back on the road?

    3. R. Phair on October 29, 2013 at 2:57 PM said:

      The real problem is not the jurisdiction of permission but the false premise that a permit to
      enjoy a Constitutionally guaranteed right is even necessary!

    4. I disagree with the tyrannical .gov concept that government stooges determine if one can carry a concealed weapon. I do not believe in paper permits issued by Pa bureaucrats, allowing one to carry. Evidently folks like those making comments here do not understand the meaning of “shall not be infringed”. Effing sheeple.

    5. Unfortunately,false premise or not, not having a paper permit if stopped will cause you to lose your rights due to 68 GCA along with the Fed one from around 1948 prohibiting felons from having firearms. Not all of us can live in Constitutional Carry States though that is the goal.

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