PA Sheriff Sued Over Concealed Carry Delays

There’s already a four month wait in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for those residents hoping to obtain a concealed carry license, but those delays are likely to grow even longer now that the sheriff has shut down the office to the public, preventing anyone from applying for their license to carry until further notice.

The new shutdown has prompted a new lawsuit from the Firearms Policy Coalition and several Allegheny County residents, who argue that the COVID-related closure is infringing on their Second Amendment rights.

“The Commonwealth’s criminal laws, and the shutdown of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Firearms Division, among other laws, policies, and practices we challenge in this case, make it impossible for our clients to lawfully carry firearms in public, in violation of their fundamental right to bear arms,” said FPC’s Adam Kraut. “Allegheny County residents who do not have a license to carry firearms are now being completely denied their rights on pain of severe criminal penalties. We look forward to vindicating the rights of our clients and all who wish to carry firearms in public for self-defense.”

“As the Supreme Court just days ago made clear, governments may not ignore the Constitution and prevent people from exercising their rights even during a pandemic,” said FPC President Brandon Combs. “The defendants’ unconstitutional laws and policies have made it impossible for law-abiding people to exercise their right to bear arms. That is a policy choice that the Constitution takes off the table. Through this case, other FPC lawsuits, and many more cases that will be filed very soon, FPC will continue fighting forward and work to restore the People’s right to keep and bear arms across the United States.”

The lawsuit follows similar litigation filed by FPC against the city of Philadelphia over its own delays when it comes to processing concealed carry applications, which have resulted in a year-long wait before residents can even get an appointment to drop off their application.

The cases highlight one of the problems with concealed carry licensing laws; while law-abiding citizens must comply with state statutes if they want to legally carry a firearm for self-defense, the agencies responsible for issuing the licenses can seemingly delay the processing of those applications for an indefinite period of time. The result is that many gun owners simply have no way to exercise their right to bear arms without violating state law.

As the Supreme Court ruled in a 1976 case called Elrod vs. Burns, “The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Why should the Second Amendment be treated as a lesser right?

The Court referenced the Elrod decision in its recent ruling striking down New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions aimed at limiting attendance during church services, opining that “even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” adding that “he restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

Well, the restrictions in place in Allegheny County, Philadelphia, and other localities across the country when it comes to the issuance of concealed carry licenses or gun permits also effectively bar many from lawfully keeping and bearing arms, which strikes at the very heart of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to do so. Just as our right to worship doesn’t disappear in a declared emergency, neither does our right to protect ourselves and our loved ones with a firearm.

Hopefully we’ll soon get some favorable decisions by federal judges that will compel these jurisdictions to either uphold their end of the law and process applications within a reasonable amount of time, or (less likely) toss out the laws requiring a license to carry altogether. A right delayed is a right denied, and far too many Americans are currently stuck in a legal limbo; unable to exercise their Second Amendment rights because of an unwillingness on the part of the government to do what is required under the law and the Constitution.