A right delayed is a right denied, and residents of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania have had their rights violated for nearly a year now, thanks to the ever-growing delays in processing concealed carry license applications by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office. The backups began last March when the sheriff’s office space was closed to the general public, including those wanting to drop off their carry applications, and while the sheriff soon began scheduling appointments for those wishing to apply, the office simply couldn’t keep up with the demands of residents with the system they had put in place.
In December, the sheriff completely shut down the Firearms Division because of a COVID exposure, which led to a lawsuit being filed by the Firearms Policy Coalition. Just a few months later, the Second Amendment organization says it’s now reached a settlement with the sheriff’s office.
Under the settlement agreement, the ACSO has agreed to ensure that the carry license process remains open and accessible to people even if their public services office is closed due to COVID or other circumstances, implement an alternative, email-based application system in the event of any closure, and announce the availability of alternative application methods through their social media platforms and website.
Additionally, the ACSO has agreed to issue licenses to anyone who meets the State’s statutory requirement of passing the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) background check, and that they will not require burdensome processes such as in-person interviews, fingerprinting, personal or character references, or additional documentation unless legally required to do so by the enactment of a future law or intervening regulation or binding appellate court opinion.
Moreover, the ACSO will provide training to its employees with regard to the procedures and protections of individuals found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109, as well as the confidentiality of carry license applicant and licensee information.
This is very good news for Pittsburgh residents hoping to acquire their license to carry, and it comes just a few weeks after a federal judge gave the green light to a similar lawsuit filed against the city of Philadelphia for closing the city’s Gun Permit Unit and depriving residents of their right to bear arms in self-defense. At the moment, there’s a year-long wait in the city to even drop off your carry application, which is a clear violation of state law as well as a deprivation of the Second Amendment rights of residents.
To me, one of the best arguments for Constitutional Carry is to point out the problems that have ensued in many cities and states over the past year in terms of processing carry applications in a timely manner. In Detroit, there’s also a year-long wait to apply, while in Illinois it’s taking more than six months to process carry applications. In Multnomah County, Oregon, the wait is at least four months long, and there are many other jurisdictions with lengthy wait times as well.
I understand that the COVID pandemic has forced sheriff’s offices to change their procedures, but the pandemic hasn’t stripped citizens of their civil rights. If we’re still obliged to apply for a carry license, then the licensing authority is still obliged to process that application in a timely manner. Our rights shouldn’t be lost as a result of their inability or unwillingness to do so. If the authorities can’t operate within the confines of the law, then the law needs to be changed to allow legal gun owners to also lawfully carry.
That’s already the law in 17 states, and Montana looks poised to become number 18 in just a few weeks. Nearly 40-percent of the nation already operates under Constitutional Carry, in other words, but in some of the most densely-populated parts of the country the ability to carry a gun in self-defense is still being treated as a privilege to be doled out whenever the local sheriff or state police can get around to it instead of the constitutionally-protect right that it is.
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