Clarion sheriff says new law has him looking for firearms space

The Clarion County Sheriff’s Department is preparing for Pennsylvania’s Act 79 to take effect in April, and the new law requires anyone under a protection-from-abuse order to relinquish their firearms.

For Clarion County Sheriff Rex Munsee, this means finding additional storage space.

“I’ve already met with my commissioners and we’re talking about a storage room to use for a gun room because I’m going to need some more space,” Munsee said.

Munsee said a storage room is available at the county courthouse, but modifications will be needed to make it secure.

Prior to Act 79, seizing guns in PFA cases was at the discretion of the courts.

Munsee said it makes sense to take the guns if a defendant used or threatened to use a gun against a victim, but he said he would rather not do so if guns weren’t a factor in the case.

“If somebody swerved a car at their wife on the road, I don’t get an order to take the car,” Munsee said. “If the gun is not used or threatened to be used, then why take his collection?”

Munsee criticized the new legislation as an unfunded mandate, adding a burden on local government without providing resources.

“I feel bad taking somebody’s guns, a whole collection of them,” Munsee said. “I have to return them in the same condition. It’s going to need to be tended to, wiped down once a month.”

Act 79 was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in October.

Under Act 79, a person under a PFA commits a second degree misdemeanor if “he intentionally or knowingly fails to relinquish a firearm, or other weapon or ammunition to the sheriff or appropriate law enforcement agency.”

Any police agency can serve a PFA, Munsee said, but he noted that the law specifically mentions sheriffs as the ones to receive the guns.

“I’m going to do what the law requires me to do but I have reservations about using tax money to make storage for these guns,” Munsee said.