Just about 5 years ago I decided to take the necessary steps to protect myself and my family. I filled out an application for a PA License to Carry Firearms and mailed it in to the Berks County Sheriff. Back then the process was kind of cumbersome, although far better than many other states.
Along with the application, two references had to be included. The referral forms had to be filled out and signed by friends. While not a big deal, it seemed to gum up the works a bit (getting the form to friends, waiting for them to fill them out, picking them back up… it was a process in and of itself).
The paperwork was then sent to the sheriff and a background check would be completed. If everything came back okay, a camera card would be mailed to the applicant. Once that camera card was in my possession, I made my way to the county courhouse to have my photo taken and my License to Carry Firearms printed.
The entire process took a couple of weeks and the license was good for 5 years. With that 5 years being up next month, it was time for me to begin the renewal process. Fortunately, things have changed considerably since I first received my License. Those changes, from what I understand, are thanks to the efforts of our Berks County Sheriff, Eric J. Weaknecht.
These days, the Berks County Sheriff’s Office produces your PA License to Carry Firearms while you wait. In addition to the faster system, the application process has been simplified so that references just include a name, address, and phone number (no more tracking down friends and having them fill out paperwork). Even nicer is the fact that the Berks County Sheriff’s Office now has satellite offices to make the process more convenient.
I’ve heard from friends and family that these days the process takes about fifteen minutes (pending the office isn’t lined with people). My renewal took 1 Hour and 21 Minutes from when I walked through the door until I walked back out to my car. Even though it took me much longer than I anticipated, it could have been far worse. At least I wasn’t renewing in Philadelphia.
The delay wasn’t the fault of the Berks County Sheriff’s Office. I stopped in last week to renew and was greeted by a sign stating that the State Police System was down (and had been for two hours prior to my arrival). When I stopped back in today, the system was still acting up. Checks were not being done through an automated system. Instead, all checks were being performed by an operator (the deputy was telling me about how busy he has been due to the State Police System trouble).
Because background checks were being done manually, it was taking longer than usual. When I arrived I had about five people ahead of me. Four people arrived after I did, giving the impression that PA Licenses to Carry Firearms are booming in Berks County.
My one and only gripe (if you can even call it that) is that the new License isn’t as nice as my old one (My old license was more like a drivers license. The new one looks like a laminated card).