Rights On Hold: Gun Owners Still Facing Long Delays For Licenses, Permits

As the Great Gun Run of 2020 continues with record high sales on firearms, gun owners and those wishing to purchase a firearm in many parts of the country are growing increasingly frustrated by months-long waits to get a concealed carry license or even a permit to keep a gun in their home.

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the Firearms Division of the sheriff’s office is now scheduling appointments in March of 2021 to apply for concealed carry licenses. Even existing concealed carry holders are being told that they can’t renew their licenses any sooner than that, and some of those left twiddling their thumbs for months say something has to give.

“Without a concealed carry you can’t go anywhere,” said Brian Boles of Natrona Heights…

Boles said there should be an easier way to get his permit because he’s not the only one who is struggling to get it done.

“The Second Amendment wasn’t made for the gun to just be at the house,” he said. “You’re supposed to be able to bear arms. It’s supposed to be on your person, it could be in your vehicle. It’s for your protection and I think Allegheny County is infringing on that right now.”

The head of the gun permitting division of the sheriff’s office says that deputies simply can’t keep up with the high demand, especially with the county moving to an appointment-based system in order to limit the number of people inside the sheriff’s office because of COVID-19 mitigation policies.

“I understand people are frustrated, but we’re doing the best we can do right now and we’re aggressively looking for more efficient ways to do it in a safe manner,” said Chief Deputy Kevin Kraus.

Kraus said the demand for permits is the highest his department has ever seen and they’re issuing more than 100 permits daily. Before the pandemic hit people could walk in for their permits, but now it’s by appointment only.

“We have appointments, one every five minutes,” he said. “We’ve been open the last three weekends on Saturday and Sunday and like I said, we’re aggressively seeking out options to find a solution to this and service as many people as we can.”

Kraus says the sheriff’s office is looking at opening up satellite locations to allow more residents to apply for their licenses each day, but it sounds like even that isn’t going to be enough to help meet the demand.

In Washington State, meanwhile, some residents haven’t been able to apply at all for their concealed carry licenses, since many local police departments stopped taking applications in the spring.

Snoqualmie Police Department Capt. Nick Almquist said they stopped processing first time license applications in February or March. Part of this process includes taking several sets of fingerprints, which can only be done in person.

This became impossible after the police station was largely closed to the public in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Most police agencies across King County have taken similar measures, and backlogs of new applicants are piling up.

Almquist said Snoqualmie is in the process of contracting with a third party company to resume fingerprinting. The company would create a portal for people to apply and pay for the license, and set up appointments with Bellevue Fingerprinting Services.

“Like Snohomish County and Redmond and Bellevue and Kirkland have done with the same company,” he said.

The contract is being reviewed by the city attorney. If it’s approved, Snoqualmie police could begin issuing permits within three to four weeks.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. the Metropolitan Police Department says it’s instituted new policies to supposedly streamline the process of transferring firearms to their new owners, but some are still reporting lengthy delays in the process. Since D.C. doesn’t have any gun stores, residents hoping to purchase a firearm have to shop outside of the District and then have the gun shop transfer the firearm to the MPD itself, which will then release the gun to its owner. As the Washington Free Beacon‘s Stephen Gutowski recently reported, the District is wading through a huge backlog of firearm transfers dating back several months.

Dick Heller, who defeated the city’s handgun ban in a 2008 Supreme Court case, said the department expedited one weapon transfer in July after he threatened to sue, but a second handgun he ordered in August is still stuck in limbo. Heller said the licensed gun dealer he purchased the gun from in West Virginia struggled for weeks to make contact with MPD. Heller still hasn’t been given a date for when he can pick up his new gun even after making contact with the department in late September.

“It would appear that what we have again is the ‘denial of service,’” Heller told the WashingtonFree Beacon.

Not only are these delays impacting the ability of residents to exercise their Second Amendment rights, they may very well be causing some otherwise law-abiding gun owners to break the law and carry without a license based on their need for self-defense and the issuing authority’s inability to process applications in a timely manner. A right delayed is a right denied, and given the months-long backlogs in many jurisdictions, there are tens of thousands of Americans who should be able to exercise their right, but can’t because of the barriers of bureaucracy in place.