There is little question that violent gun crime is a big problem in big cities. While myriad theories are offered about its causes and possible solutions, the reality is that law abiding private citizens living in crime ridden inner cities often walk around in fear. Witnesses to the violence must keep silent to avoid being targeted as the police cannot protect them since the police cannot be everywhere.
Law enforcement in these big cities certainly has its hands full, and those sworn to serve and protect who are out on the mean streets faithfully doing their jobs on a regular basis, deserve our utmost respect. However, obeyance of the law and respect for law enforcement does not equate to automatically buying into the “politically correct” sound bites often repeated by elected and politically appointed officials. Sound bites do not provide real doable solutions.
We learned in kindergarten that two wrongs don’t make a right. It is clearly wrong to intentionally hurt other people. For example, it is a crime and morally wrong to commit murder. However, it’s also morally wrong to deprive law abiding people of their God given inalienable rights. America was founded on the idea that all people have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If a government (Federal, State or Local) deprives law abiding citizens of their right to protect themselves against those who would do them physical harm, that government is taking away their rights. That is wrong. A government that does not trust its citizens enough to permit them to exercise their basic inalienable rights is not a government either for or of the people.
Politicians, the police brass, the media, and everyday folks are all right to condemn gun violence. They are correct to seek appropriate and lawful solutions to this epidemic. However, they are wrong to seek solutions that penalize those who are law abiding for the violent crimes of those who are not. That smacks of socialism and Marxism. Asking law abiding citizens to give up their rights to make it easier or more convenient for the State to control not just criminals but everyone, is just plain wrong and anti-American.
The mass media are also culpable. In a recent and very misleading front page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled, Who can have a gun in Phila.? Often, Florida decides (http://www.philly.com/philly/news/130922058.html?viewAll=y), repeated distortions and incorrect information were presented. Note the article title. Florida decides who can have a gun a Philadelphia? Nothing could be further from the truth! As I discuss below, legal gun ownership in PA (last I checked Philadelphia is part of Pennsylvania) is determined by a PA State Police criminal background check. Secondly, a license to carry firearms is distinctly different from gun ownership. Thirdly, last I checked, the PA State Legislature had governing authority in creating and amending state gun laws.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reporter cites several cases where Philadelphia residents whom the Philadelphia Police denied PA Licenses to Carry Firearms on character grounds, supposedly “easily circumvented the local licensing process by obtaining a mail-order gun permit from Florida, where the rules are less stringent.” This is a gross distortion and misrepresentation of the truth.
Florida’s requirements for granting a gun permit are actually more stringent than Pennsylvania’s requirements. Pennsylvania does not require any training whatsoever as a prerequisite for obtaining a gun license in the Keystone State.
Florida requires training from an NRA Certified Instructor that covers firearm safety, the use of force, including deadly force, and the law. When you send a non-resident gun permit application to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Licensing, it requires notarization, and it also includes a completed fingerprint card (fingerprints must be done by an active duty law enforcement agent) and a signed passport photo. After the application packet is received by Florida, a criminal background check is conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI. In most cases, if an applicant has a criminal record, one would expect it to be flagged.
The fact is that Philadelphians who choose to apply for a Florida gun permit are not circumventing anything. They are exercising their legally valid privilege to apply for a non-resident Florida gun permit that is legally recognized by more than 30 states including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, at the time of this writing.
The reporter also states that “because Pennsylvania and Florida have a reciprocal agreement to respect each other’s gun licenses, local police are compelled to honor his permit, despite their opposition”. Shouldn’t the local police be required to obey state law?
Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, Charles H. Ramsey, is quoted as saying that “such broad reciprocity ‘undermines the traditional authority of state and local governments to protect their citizens’.” This sounds like a noble statement, but it makes no sense! I can only surmise that such a statement stems from the assumption that a bad guy who wants to carry a gun to commit a crime will wait until he receives his out of state gun permit. Come on, please!
A key question that is not mentioned in the article to which I have referred is what is required for a Philadelphia Pennsylvania resident to purchase a handgun in Philadelphia or anywhere else in Pennsylvania. The answer is passing a Pennsylvania State Police instant background check conducted by phone and computers at the time of attempted purchase of the firearm from the FFL dealer (i.e., the legal seller).
If the Philadelphia or Pennsylvania gun buyer passes this “Insta-Check” because he has no record, then he gets to purchase the gun. That’s fair. Out of state gun permits, such as Florida’s, do not put more illegal guns into the hands of street criminals.
Criminals put more illegal guns into the hands of criminals. A legally obtained out of state gun permit is of no use to someone wanting to legally purchase a gun in Pennsylvania or in any other state.
The Philadelphia Inquirer article also affirmed that “the city argues that it needs latitude in determining who is a threat, because of long-standing problems in the court system. An Inquirer report last year noted that while prosecutors in other big cities win felony convictions in half of violent-crime cases, in Philadelphia, prosecutors had been winning only 20 percent.” Is this a reason to break state law which recognizes non-resident out of state gun permits and harass such permit holders? Obviously it isn’t, or else those harassed would not be winning settlements offered by the City of Philadelphia.
A major problem with such thinking is that it punishes the innocent law abiding citizen who wants a license to carry a gun for self defense in crime ridden Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, the overextended police cannot be everywhere, and as a result, they are mostly relegated to the role of investigating violent crimes after they have been committed; not preventing such crimes. The fact is that people are out on the dangerous streets on their own, and the politicians want to take away their right to self defense! That’s not fair.
Sure there are people who get gun permits from Florida, Pennsylvania, and anywhere else, who commit criminal violence. However, I think the anti-gun rights politicians and political appointees have gotten their cause and effect mixed up. Gun permits do not lead people to commit gun crimes. How could that even be? As I stated when I was interviewed by that reporter, the vast majority of violent crimes are committed by criminals who do not hold or apply for gun permits, and who obtain their guns illegally.
If big cities like Philadelphia choose to deny certain applicants gun permits on character grounds, those denied applicants have the right to appeal their denials, re-apply, and also to apply for gun permits from other states that grant their gun permits to non-residents. These applicants are acting within the law. It’s not illegal to follow the law, last I checked. Once they break the law, that’s another story.
By the way, whatever happened to the right to be deemed innocent until proven guilty? If a person is charged with a crime and is not convicted of the crime, either he was not guilty, or there was a fault or error with the judicial system. The solution is not to make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to get legal gun permits for self protection. Two wrongs, big city gun crime and gun control, don’t make a right.
The answer to violent gun crime out of control is not to violate peoples’ legal and moral rights. The answer, more simply stated than accomplished, is to fix the broken court system in the city, and to hire more police so there can be a greater police presence in neighborhoods living in fear.
Asking law abiding citizens to give up their rights to make it easier or more convenient for the State to control not just criminals but everyone, is just plain wrong and anti-American.