Demand for concealed carry licenses has never been higher, but the months-long wait for many gun owners isn’t getting any better. In Florida, wait times are now stretching out to 60 days or more according to the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees concealed carry licenses in the state, and that seems to be one of the quicker turnarounds at the moment. In places like Philadelphia, folks are being told that it will be a year or more before they can even drop off their concealed carry application, which has prompted lawsuits by both Gun Owners of America and the Firearms Policy Coalition. In fact, the FPC filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the city on Monday morning, arguing that Philadelphia officials “may not both ban the carry of loaded handguns under its criminal laws and place the only exemption to those laws for typical law-abiding citizens… out of reach. One or the other must give.”
Over the course of 24 pages of arguments, including some detailing historical and empirical studies, the plaintiffs conclude that “this Court should enjoin Defendants from enforcing Defendants’ laws, policies, and enforcement practices which individually and/or collectively prohibit Plaintiffs and other similarly situated law-abiding adults from exercising the Second Amendment right to carry loaded, operable firearms in public for lawful purposes, including self-defense.”
“Philadelphia’s policies and actions, in conjunction with the Commonwealth’s and City’s criminal law, amount to a total ban on the right and ability of our clients to carry a firearm outside of their home for self-defense,” said FPC’s Adam Kraut, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “The Defendants’ incredible and unconstitutionally broad ban left us with no choice but to seek the extraordinary relief required to end the irreparable harm to our clients’ and members’ rights.”
While the problems with processing license applications in a timely manner dates back to the spring in most cases, we’re likely going to experience another wave of COVID-related closures around the country that will lead to even longer delays for those applying for a carry license or even a permit to own a firearm.
In Nantucket, Massachusetts, for instance, the local police department announced last week that it’s no longer processing gun permits until further notice. Because a permit is required in order to purchase a firearm in the state, the closures mean that there’s currently no way for residents to legally acquire a firearm for self-defense or home protection.
“We are not refusing to issue permits, we are simply not accepting applications for new permits that require a fingerprint-based background check at this time until we can determine a manner in which to do it safely,” [Chief William] Pittman said.
“What happens if one of our permitting staff tests positive and exposes the entire day shift of police and command officers to COVID and we all have to quarantine for 14 days? Are we going to rely on the one State Trooper on the island to protect us? This situation is more complex than simply refusing to take someone’s fingerprints.”
The situation is definitely complex, and I’m not necessarily blaming Pittman for wanting to keep his staff safe and healthy. At the same time, however, Massachusetts law is what it is, and by not accepting applications for new permits for the foreseeable future the police department is infringing on the right of residents to keep and bear arms (or at least those residents who want to apply for a license or permit now).
It’s not just Nantucket. In Ohio, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office has also suspended their acceptance of concealed carry applications for at least two weeks, and I don’t think anyone would be shocked if the delays last far longer. In Swain County, North Carolina the sheriff’s office stopped accepting applications back on November 15th after a coronavirus outbreak hit several deputies, and the sheriff says the office will be closed to the public at least through Thanksgiving.
Expect these problems to become more widespread in the coming weeks as more governors reimpose lockdown measures in the name of driving down the number of coronavirus cases. I don’t know how successful those measures will be at preventing the spread of a virus, but they’re going to be incredibly effective at preventing Americans from exercising their Second Amendment rights.