City sued over gun law practices

In a city on a glide path to the greatest number of homicides in decades, here’s an unusual holiday gift: The police department’s Gun Permit Unit will reopen Monday, Dec. 7. (Coincidentally, that is Pearl Harbor Day. No, I do not forget.)

The city’s Gun Law Unit located in Juniata

The Gun Permit Unit, located for your inconvenience at 660 E. Erie Avenue, is where civilians have to appear — twice — to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. 

It closed Nov. 19th, according to a police department notice, “due to several positive COVID-19 cases and the need to quarantine” as advised by the city Health Department. Several months earlier it had cancelled all walkup service and reduced gun permit service to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, by appointment. When it reopens, applications will be processed Monday-Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Applicants must have an appointment and those can be made by phone between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The unit is closed for a winter holiday break from Dec. 20 to Jan. 3. [Personal disclosure: I have had a Philadelphia carry permit for many years.]

One day after the shutdown, the Firearms Policy Coalition filed a suit complaining of Constitutional violations naming the city,  Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick. 

Gun ownership is an unrestricted individual right, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, but local jurisdictions have been permitted to require citizens to jump through hoops to have the right to carry. For many states, it is a minor bump in the road. For others, such as New Jersey, it is a roadblock for citizens who want to carry for a reason as silly as self defense. (Sarcasm is intended as being attacked is more likely outside the home than inside.)

In contrast to most Pennsylvania counties, Philadelphia requires two visits, and a long delay between applying for and receiving the permit that costs $20. The unit, for your inconvenience, accepts only money orders — not credit cards, not checks, and certainly not cash (because that would mean trusting the police with cash?)

If you haven’t caught it yet, Philadelphia chooses to make it as hard as possible to get a permit. 

It’s easier in many other Pennsylvania counties. 

“In the ones I’ve encountered, it might be a 10-minute wait, after you pass the background check,” says gun law expert Jon Mirowitz.

I believe the delay is deliberate.

The “thinking” behind this, and I use “thinking” in quotes, is that Philadelphia has a gun problem and the way to reduce that problem is to harass people who are willing to fill out police forms — where a falsehood can land you in jail — and submit to a background check by police. 

The process ignores the reality that illegal guns cause most of the damage in this city, and elsewhere.

Only 0.002% of 12.8 million gun owners with carry permits have committed gun violations, according to John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. A number that small can be thought of as a rounding error. 

As to the suit, the Firearms Policy Coalition Director of Legal Strategy Adam Kraut said the shutdown “places Philadelphians who want to carry handguns for self-defense” in danger.

The Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit tasked with defending Constitutional rights, told me it would not withdraw its lawsuit, even after the Gun Permit Unit opens.

That’s because the suit challenges state and city law, for example, denying a carry permit to people 18-20 years old, and even the very requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon outside the home.

15 thoughts on “City sued over gun law practices”

    A very complicated subject, for sure. Carrying is serious enough, then let’s complicate things in Philly. It will never happen, but I believe that the problem of guns should start at the federal level. Betters laws, while dumping the nonsense. Consistency across the country would certainly help. And then there’s that thing about law breakers. Why smack there hand when they should actually receive jail time.

      1. Per government estimates, there are more than 300 million guns in the hands of private citizens. If guns were a REAL problem, you’d know it.

      2. Paul,
        let’s clean up the useless laws that we have now. People like Krasner are part of the problem When there is an actual gun crime, he would rather reduce it down to “get out of jail”.
        On a federal level, do a better job with gun purchase and following the gun ownership. You do know, e.g., that if you own guns, and you pass them on to a family member within the state, there is little if any paperwork involved. I know that if I send my guns to Rhode Island, there is a paper trail.
        Then there’s that little thing called CONVICTION and PENALTY. ( got to look that one up ! )
        Interstate purchases can either be hard or easy.
        That’s just a few…….

  2. Per my Constitutional rights, I got my carry permit at the Norristown Court House some 10 years ago (renewed at five years). It took maybe 15 minutes because of the many people (all ages, both sexes) waiting ahead of me. Philadelphia, being in the death-grip of the Left since 1948, seems to get a perverse pleasure out of making EVERYTHING difficult for its citizens. (You get what you vote for.) Finally, when questioned by friends, “Why do you carry?” I respond, “Because you don’t need a gun until you really need a gun.”

  3. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    I think we have to wonder what the founders had in mind in formulating the 2nd amendment:

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
    —End quotation

    There would be nothing inconsistent with this if Congress or the states required our legally armed citizens to participate in training with (or be members of) the National Guard. It’s apparent that the founders thought that citizens should be armed and have a right thereto, this “being necessary to the security of a free state.”

    A closely connected point is that the founders were generally quite skeptical of “large standing armies” in times of peace. The state militias were an alternative. The British, relying on the Royal Navy for defense, long nurtured a similar skepticism of large domestic armies under royal command –an instrument of tyranny. We have our similar doubts about what President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex.”

    I’ve tried debating related points on occasion. The reply from gun enthusiasts is typically dogmatic, detailed and extremely voluminous. But obviously, if gun ownership is to serve the purposes of “the security of a free state” and the state and federal governments have any proper role in the regulation of “a well regulated militia,” then I see no deeper constitutional objection to various and sundry gun regulations in the states and localities. They are much easier than requiring gun owners to join the National Guard. The very distinction between “legal” and “illegal” possession of guns seems to depend on the constitutionality of regulation.

    It seems absurd to want to have exactly the same gun regulations, say, in the wilds of Alaska or Montana and in every large city –plagued with murders and gun violence.

    But, in any case, my general policy is to pass over the issues lightly. We are not about to change the 2nd amendment (though corresponding texts in some of the state constitutions are more modest). Public politeness obviously becomes something of an American imperative. In my experience, the same is not true in many a country with much greater restrictions. On the other hand, we are more prone to back-channel backbiting and malicious gossip.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. H.G.
      I agree with you in that being a member of the National Guard should be required. How that would work for us old timers is subject to ridicule and criticism. ( I’m not much for marching, but I can still shoot straight )
      I am curious as to how you have a “light” conversation with a gun enthusiast ?

      1. Philadelphia, PA

        Dear Clark & readers,

        The answer is what is called “stoic self-restraint.” After making you statement or argument on an issue, if you judge the reply to be excessive, or overly enthusiastic or vehement, then politely acknowledge it and say no more. It’s not as though very controversial issues, when generating more heat than light, must always be settled by morning.

        This depends on being able to identify those advocates or opponents more interested in generating heat than in light.

        H.G. Callaway

  4. I’m still waiting to hear where that POS who shot all those cops over a year ago got his guns at. He was a convicted felon who had gun charges on his resume. Let em out Larry was responsible for him being on the street. The least they could do is tell us how a person like that gets multiple guns and rifles. I don’t understand why they don’t make announcements in cases where felons had guns and where they got them at. Let’s have some sort of transparency before we go and have any gun control discussions.

    1. Bill,

      That individual is in jail and awaiting trial. He is fighting every charge. He believes that on the day of the incident he was “protecting his 4th Amendment right by exercising his 2nd Amendment right.” I kid you not….he posted it on Instagram! Soon after his arrest he was moved to an out of county jail facility because he claimed the guards in the city jail were “mistreating him.” Stay safe.

  5. Do you even know what the National Guard is, when it was formed…? Do you know what ‘militia’ means? And what it meant in 1789?
    Show me where ‘training’ is required in order to ensure the rights of citizens, ANY rights, in the Constitution. Do I have to train in order to express my first amendment rights? Fourth? Fifth? Do you know what rights are? Do you understand how the Constitution was written to limit GOVERNMENT and not the citizens?

    1. Philadelphia, PA

      Dear Costello,

      According to their webpages, the National Guard says:

      We recognize December 13th as the birthday of the National Guard. On this date in 1636, the first militia regiments in North America were organized in Massachusetts. Based upon an order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s General Court, the colony’s militia was organized into three permanent regiments to better defend the colony. Today, the descendants of these first regiments – the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard – share the distinction of being the oldest units in the U.S. military. December 13, 1636, thus marks the beginning of the organized militia, and the birth of the National Guard’s oldest organized units is symbolic of the founding of all the state, territory, and District of Columbia militias that collectively make up today’s National Guard.
      —End quotation


      It’s no surprise, I think, that colonial Massachusetts (founded 1620, as I recall) should have early organized its militia. This was carried over from English practices and institutions. The first units of the republican army of the English Commonwealth which overthrew and executed king Charles I., was drawn from local militias, sometimes also called home guard units. The established army fought for the king.

      The militias of the early republic were widely regarded as the “citizens” or popular element of the national defence establishment, analogous to the role of juries in trials, as contrasted with the role of judges and state prosecutors, and analogous to the role of the House of Representatives in national legislation –as contrasted with the Executive and the U.S. Senate. We still sometimes hear the House of Representatives spoken of as “the people’s House.” Consider whether an illiterate citizen, ignorant and untrained on what juries do should qualify as a member of a jury.

      Again, consider the first amendment’s protection of religious practices:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
      —End quotation

      But not just anything counts as a protected “free exercise” of religion. Utah had to outlaw polygamy before Congress would admit it as a state of the union. The first amendment does not protect, say, human sacrifice or honor killings on religious grounds, etc. one may need to consult a long judicial tradition of decisions to understand the first amendment.

      The constitution was certainly written to limit government and to protect the rights of the citizens. How best, then, to protect us against murder and gun violence on the streets of major cities? Is there not a valid distinction between legal and illegal gun possession?

      Notice that regulation of gun ownership has long persisted along with the 2nd amendment –just as outlawing supposed “religious” practices persists with the first amendment. Or, again, freedom of speech does not extend to inciting riot in front of an angry crowd. Your freedom to swing your fist ends and the tip of the next fellow’s nose, etc.

      The founders chiefly favored a citizen militia over a standing army precisely to limit the power of the national executive. Notice how we mostly felt protected when the Governor recently called out the National Guard to patrol in Philadelphia. These were our own fellow citizens of PA come to town to set things in order.

      The law and legislation have appropriate regulatory powers without infringing the 2nd amendment –or so I tend to think.

      H.G. Callaway

  6. And no one mentions this!!!!????

    210 Guns Went Missing from Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office …
    Nov 18, 2020 · 210 Guns Went Missing from Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, New Report Says The City Controller’s office found that deputy’s service weapons and recovered guns …

    New Report Finds More Than 200 Firearms Went Missing From …
    Nov 18, 2020 · PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A yearlong investigation has found that more than 200 firearms went missing from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office between 1977 and 2015, the City Controller’s Office said Wednesday. Officials said a confidential complaint in the fall of 2019 sparked the investigation.

    Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office Scrambling to Find More than …
    More than 200 guns have reportedly gone missing from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department, an investigation has revealed. A total of 101 service firearms and 109 protection from abuse (PFA)…

    Author: Samantha Lock
    Philly Sheriffs Lost More Than 200 Guns – GunsAmerica Digest
    Nov 19, 2020 · Not very, if you’re a responsible gun owner. But, for whatever reason (and we don’t want to speculate), the Philadelphia Sheriff’s office is missing over 200 firearms, reports local media . Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal addressed the matter this week, blaming the lost guns on previous administrations. “They left us with a crazy mess as far as the sheriff’s office and it’s not just the …

    Philadelphia sheriff’s office, City Controller …
    Nov 19, 2020 · Thursday, November 19, 2020 PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — With more than 200 guns reportedly missing from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department, the …

    Author: Walter Perez
    More than 200 guns missing from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s …
    Nov 19, 2020 · Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice The investigation of the weapon inventory of the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, by the City Controller’s Officer, found there are 101 missing service firearms and 109…

    Guns missing from sheriff’s office is yet another reason …
    Nov 30, 2020 · In a city awash in guns and an out of control homicide rate, it’s horrifying to consider that the source of some of those guns could be the Philadelphia Sheriff’s office. An investigation announced last week from City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart found 200-plus guns missing from that office due to sloppy management and nonexistent controls. The possibility that some of those guns might have …

    Controller: Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office can’t account …
    Nov 19, 2020 · The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office cannot account for more than 200 guns that are supposed to be in its custody, some of them part of the office’s arsenal and others confiscated from people subject to protection-from-abuse orders, according to an investigative report released Wednesday by the City Controller’s Office.

    Report: Philadelphia sheriff’s office missing more than …
    Nov 19, 2020 · Officials from the Philadelphia City Controller’s office said that they still are unsure of where most of those missing firearms ended up, they are following some disturbing leads. Rhynhart said in a statement: “Our investigation did find evidence of trading at gun shops with city sheriff’s office guns. Very, very problematic.”

    Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office Loses 210 Guns | The Armory …
    It can be so difficult to keep track of things like guns, can’t it? It seems that the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office — an operation well-known for its public service and rectitude — has managed to misplace a number of firearms that were entrusted to it.

      1. The bottom line is that restrictions will supposedly result in less gun violence. And yet one of the “controls” is having law enforcement know where these weapons are and who has them. Instead, our so-called protectors are the worst offenders. Where are these guns? Who has them? How many innocent kids will be killed with them? Why is there no accountability ever?

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