Over the past year we’ve written extensively about the long delays for gun permits and concealed carry licenses in jurisdictions from coast-to-coast, including Philadelphia, where the closing of the police department’s Gun Permit Unit helped to create a months-long backlog of applicants who’ve been forced to wait in a legal limbo as a result. Only after a lawsuit was filed did the GPU re-open for business, though by appointment only.
On Thursday a federal judge ruled that a federal suit brought by the Firearms Police Coalition against the city and the Gun Permit Unit can continue, which will hopefully send a clear message to governments across the country: quit putting the Second Amendment rights of your citizens on the back burner or get ready to face legal challenges of your own.
In his nine-page ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson denied a motion to dismiss filed by Philadelphia, the city’s police commissioner Danielle Outlaw and the Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Colonel Robert Evanchick, saying that he needed more information to resolve the dispute at hand.
“The Court will not attempt to analyze or resolve the significant issues raised by both parties in the briefing,” Baylson wrote. “The Court believes that an evidentiary hearing should take place to explore the issues with direct and cross-examination, followed by briefing on the merits.”
The final hearing is scheduled for April 19.
According to the ruling, the city claims that “the rapid processing of a firearms license application for public carrying during a public health emergency is not a right protected under the Second Amendment.”
Whereas the Firearm Policy Coalition says the extent to which the city has delayed applications, and its failure to implement any sort of online permitting system during the pandemic, constitutes “an infringement on applicants’ constitutional rights under the Second Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment.”
Keep in mind that Philadelphia is in the midst of an historic rise in violent crime. There were 499 homicides in 2020, which was the highest in nearly 30 years, yet the city says that preventing people from legally carrying their firearm by imposing long delays in processing carry permits doesn’t impact the Second Amendment rights of residents?
Gang members, drug dealers, and individuals willing to engage in a crime of opportunity aren’t carrying their guns legally. They’re not going through the lengthy process of applying for their concealed carry permit, and Philly’s crime rate would indicate that there are quite a few criminals carrying and using guns illegally with little fear of the consequences.
Instead, it’s legal gun owners who would like to carry for self-defense who’ve been impacted by the city’s slow-walking of carry permit applications. At a time of increased violence the city is making it impossible for those gun owners to legally carry a firearm to protect themselves by forcing them to wait for months on end before they can even drop off their application for a carry permit.
Judge Bayslon made the right decision in allowing the lawsuit to proceed. It would be great if the Philly PD and the Gun Permit Unit were to follow suit and begin processing and accepting these applications in a timely manner, but it may very well take the federal judiciary to force them to do so.
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