A Luzerne County man who publicly pushed for his constitutional right to acquire fully automatic machine guns lost access to his weapons for nine months Tuesday due to a protection-from-abuse action filed by his wife.
Foster Township resident Gale Braddock sought the PFA on July 1 against Thomas Braddock, her husband of 21 years.
After a hearing Tuesday, a county judge signed an order keeping the PFA in effect for nine months. The order grants Gale Braddock exclusive possession of their residence and prohibits Thomas Braddock from acquiring or possessing any weapons during the nine-month period.
Gale Braddock has said she sought the PFA because her husband has been “acting erratically” for months. She said she feared for her life when he had access to a gun collection that includes semi- and fully automatic weapons and also accused him of mentally and verbally abusing her.
Thomas Braddock, who was evicted from his home when county sheriff deputies came to collect the weapons, has said he is mentally and physically sound and accused his wife of making “fraudulent” statements in the court filing.
County Sheriff Brian Szumski said his office will keep Braddock’s guns in secure storage unless a judge issues an order allowing them to be returned to Braddock.
Thomas Braddock publicly complained a year ago when prior interim county sheriff John Robshaw had refused to sign off on requests for Class III permits allowing fully automatic machine guns, weapon silencers and short-barrel shotguns and rifles.
The federal form to transfer Class III weapons from dealers to individuals requires the “chief law enforcement officer” in that jurisdiction — which is typically the county sheriff in Pennsylvania — to certify he or she has no information indicating the applicant will use the transferred item for an illegal purpose. Braddock said he couldn’t turn to a police chief because Foster Township doesn’t have a municipal police department.
Robshaw has said he does not believe citizens should possess these items and didn’t want to be held responsible if they were involved in a crime.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does its own extensive background checks and ultimately decides if these weapon transfers are approved.
Without Robshaw’s sign-off, Braddock said he was forced to resort to another option to obtain a machine gun — creation of a special gun trust that assumes ownership of Class III weapons.
The federal government still conducts background checks of the primary trustee, but approval of the local chief law enforcement officer is not required for transfers to gun trusts, which have become more common.
A retired Army National Guard major, Braddock, 58, has said he has no criminal record and kept his gun collection secure. He worked 20 years for the federal government, including 13 years for the Bureau of Prisons.