Pennsylvania’s requirement that buyers provide a Social Security number to purchase a gun or obtain a concealed-weapons permit was struck down yesterday by a federal judge. The state law violated the federal Privacy Act, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez ruled. “This issue has been largely overlooked in Pennsylvania and other states for a long time,” said lawyer J. Dwight Yoder, who brought the case on behalf of a retired U.S. Army officer from Lancaster. “This ruling is about privacy, not guns. We weren’t looking to circumvent gun laws.”
Lawyers for the Pennsylvania State Police were reviewing the decision and considering an appeal, spokesman Jack Lewis said. By requiring applicants to provide Social Security numbers, Lewis said, his agency “simply has followed the requirements of the state’s Uniform Firearms Act.” The wider impact of yesterday’s ruling – whether, for example, other Pennsylvania Social Security requirements would be deemed invalid – was uncertain. One reason is that there are two large exceptions to the Privacy Act’s protection of Social Security numbers. The act does not apply to state and local government programs specifically exempted by federal law, such as driver’s license applications, or to programs from before 1974, such as voter registration.