Foster Township gun collector Thomas F. Braddock Jr. wants to buy a 9 mm machine gun from a dealer in Georgia as an investment.
He wanted to proceed with the deal by getting the signature of Luzerne County interim sheriff Jack Robshaw. But Robshaw didn't even consider signing the federal government form to authorize the purchase.
"He just flat out refused," said Braddock, a retired Army National Guard major and former employee with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. "I have had a security clearance for 25 years. I am certainly not a criminal."
Robshaw is concerned about civilians, who are not law enforcement officers, acquiring fully automatic weapons that could end up being used in mass shootings, noting they can fire "hundreds of rounds per minute." He said he would rather lose his job than sign the form.
Braddock, 57, is still able to purchase the machine gun he wants by setting up a gun trust, but he is upset he now has to spend extra time and money to get the machine gun.
His story is typical in Pennsylvania, said Joshua Prince, a Berks County attorney who specializes in gun ownership and Second Amendment issues. Law enforcement officials don't have the ability to simply refuse to consider the questions on the form from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Prince said.
Robshaw believes he can refuse to sign the form for any reason. The form authorizes transfer and sales of weapons regulated by National Firearms Act and requires the signature of the "chief law enforcement officer," or CLEO, in a jurisdiction.
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