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 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.