Just a few days before the Chicago Cubs made baseball history with their first World Series title in more than a century, the Pittsburgh Pirates were also making headlines; however, they were nothing to be cheerful about.
An incident involving Pirate Parrot, the team's mascot, made baseball fans and legal scholars worried about gun laws in Pennsylvania. It all started with the birthday of Sheriff William Mullen of Allegheny County, when his deputies thought it would be a neat idea to hire the Pirate Parrot to make a paid appearance at the Sheriff's Office during birthday celebrations.
There was nothing wrong with Pirate Parrot cheering up Sheriff Mullen on his birthday. The Sheriff happens to be a major Pirates fan, and his deputies routinely provide security for fans during home games at PNC Park. The problem started when deputies thought it would be funny to issue a firearms license to Pirate Parrot. The good people of Pittsburgh learned about the incident because the Sheriff's Office published a photo of the license on its official Facebook Timeline.
Thanks to the stunt, baseball fans now know that Pirate Parrot is 36 years old, has green hair and dark eyes, weighs 340 pounds, and was licensed to pack heat back in April of 2015.
Although the gun license issuance was clearly a poor attempt at humor by the Sheriff's Office, legal analysts have good reasons to be concerned. The joke clearly violated various statutes, namely 37 Pa.Code. 33.102 and 18 Pa.C.S. 6111. The combination of these two violations constitute a felony of the third degree, and with good reasons: Pennsylvania's gun mortality rate in 2013 was 11.2 per 100,000, which happens to be higher than the national rate.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responsibly investigated the incident and sought the opinion of Sheriff Mullen and of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neither one was amused: the Pirates' public relations department was not aware of the photos and the Sheriff explained that no one checked with him before issuing the license. Eventually, the photo of the gun license was removed, but not before legal scholars pointed out a couple of issues:
First of all, not only did the Sheriff's Office egregiously issue a gun license, but also acknowledged doing so when it shared it as a Facebook update. Second, this incident may serve a legal precedent for attorneys whose clients have been denied a license. In fact, criminal and civil cases involving firearms can now be fought in court by bringing up the incident, which shows that the Sheriff's Office is careless when it comes to giving away gun licenses.
The Pirate Parrot gun license was signed by an issuing authority and now needs to be formally revoked. There is still no word from the mascot regarding the revoking of his gun license. This is also a severe invasion of his privacy, as his personal information was revealed on the gun license. It was a disappointing year for the Pirates, so a mascot civil rights controversy may not be a battle they want to fight. Also, they must decide if the Pirate Parrot can continue his use of the t-shirt cannon during games.