Saturday, July 12, 2014

Machine gun permit is focus of county spat

Interim sheriff refuses man’s request for a Class III permit. Collector says that’s not fair.

April 23. 2013 11:48PM

By - - (570) 991-6388


Read what Luzerne County Council did at Tuesday’s session Page 10A

Meeting highlights

Luzerne County Chief Engineer Joe Gibbons presented a report on options for unused county-owned property during Tuesday’s county council meeting.

Council members did not discuss the lengthy report, saying they need more time to digest it. The document is posted on the council page of the county website,

* Council members surprised Gibbons, who has accepted a job outside the region, with a resolution praising his county service.

* Council Chairman Tim McGinley told his colleagues he spoke to a citizen audit committee member who has been using the pseudonym Therman Guamp and verified the man’s legal name is Charles Olah. Council did not discuss whether Olah will remain on the audit committee, though Councilman Eugene Kelleher proposed revamping the committee into a new audit/budget committee.

Councilman Rick Morelli has been pushing for a budget committee, saying more council monitoring of expenses and revenue is needed.

* Council members also discussed an ongoing disagreement over the board make-up of the county Flood Protection Authority, which oversees the Wyoming Valley Levee and other flood-control projects.

A proposed change would formalize a structure of five citizen members appointed by council. No action was taken because Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck and others said they worry about relying solely on citizens and support the authority’s original inclusion of the county planning/zoning director and assistant engineer on the board.

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A Foster Township man and Luzerne County Interim Sheriff John Robshaw are locked in a battle of wills over a permit request for a fully automatic machine gun.

Thomas F. Braddock Jr. said he needs a “Class III” permit to buy the machine gun, which he wants as an investment and to enhance his gun collection. If the sheriff refuses to grant this type of permit, Braddock said he will be forced to undergo a more costly process, hiring an attorney to purchase the gun through a special trust.

Robshaw, a former police officer, said the state gives sheriffs discretion to refuse Class III permit requests, and he has rejected them all since he became interim sheriff in February 2012 because he disagrees with allowing civilians to acquire automatic guns. He receives several requests each month, he said.

The permits also allow the purchase of weapon silencers, he said.

“These weapons are capable of delivering hundreds of rounds per minute,” said Robshaw. “Why in the world a civilian would need that type of weapon is beyond me.”

Robshaw said he can’t allow his name on a permit for an “extremely dangerous weapon” that could be misused by an owner or stolen for mass violence targeting schools or other places. “I don’t want to be the person who signs for that person to get an automatic weapon or silencer,” he said. “My belief is civilians don’t need them, and if it costs me my job, I don’t care.”

The sheriff is not against automatic weapons for active law enforcement and military personnel that are exempt from Class III permits, he said.

Braddock said he believes Robshaw should set aside personal beliefs about civilians and automatic weapons and approve Class III permits if there are no issues with background checks or information on permit applications. His entire working career was in government, and government workers often must sign documents for actions that were properly reviewed and complied with regulations, even if they don’t personally agree with them, he said.

“Personal opinion doesn’t matter at that point,” he said.

Braddock said he knows other county residents who have received Class III permits from prior sheriffs and he doesn’t believe he should be forced to spend time and money setting up a trust fund when the law allows sheriffs to approve them.

“I am not trying to do anything illegal here,” said Braddock. “It’s perfectly lawful. I believe in the Constitution.”

Braddock said he has a security system to protect his gun collection and has no criminal record. He is a retired Army National Guard major with 27 years of service and worked 20 years with the federal government, including 13 years for the federal Bureau of Prisons, he said.

Automatic machine guns can be legally purchased if they were made before 1986, and he wants to buy one manufactured by Georgia-based Military Armament Corp., Braddock said. The automatic weapons legally available for purchase are “extremely expensive,” ranging from $6,000 to at least $30,000, he said. He expects the gun he wants to buy will increase in value because there are a “finite number available for ownership.”

He sent a letter to county District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Monday complaining about Robshaw’s permit refusal and forwarded a copy of the correspondence to County Council members. Braddock also said he contacted a state representative, and his letter indicated his plans to notify the American Civil Liberties Union and National Rifle Association.

Robshaw said Braddock is trying to exert political pressure to make him reverse his stance, but he said he won’t. Braddock still has the right to purchase, just not through him, Robshaw said.

“He’s not totally prevented from getting the weapon,” said Robshaw. “If he and others want to go through the trust fund process, they can. That’s on somebody else’s head.”

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