Rap artist and Philadelphia native Meek Mill is no stranger to the gun control laws in his home city. Mill was arrested on gun and drug charges as a 19-year old, and spent the next decade on probation. In 2017, a Philly judge ruled that Mill had violated the terms of his probation and sentenced him to two-to-four years in prison, which led to an outpouring of support from fans, celebrities, and criminal justice reform advocates.
Mill eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and has largely put his legal woes behind him, but he’s continued advocating for changes to the criminal justice system, including a recent tweet calling out the city of Philadelphia for both its sky-high murder rate and its gun control laws.
If we having 500 murders a year in Philly why isn’t it legal to open carry and protect yourself. you can’t even protect yourself in a deadly neighborhood so y’all force kids to break the law for protecting themselves…. lil kids get done like this everyday! pic.twitter.com/TmtcWD59tt
— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) June 6, 2021
While I don’t think that open carry is necessarily the answer here (though I’d love to see Mill get behind a Constitutional Carry bill that’s been introduced in Pennsylvania), Mill is on to something by noting that the city makes it difficult, if not impossible, for many residents to lawfully carry a firearm in self-defense, even while shootings and homicides are soaring. As The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski recently reported, Philadelphia was one of the few places in the United States where the number of concealed carry licenses actually declined last year.
While 62,737 more gun-carry licenses were issued in the state during 2020 than during 2019, an increase of 25 percent, Philadelphia saw a 19 percent decrease. The city, which houses about 12.3 percent of the state’s population and its largest African-American community, issued just 2.3 percent of gun-carry licenses in the state. Philadelphia has the state’s largest population, but 11 other counties issued more gun-carry licenses in 2020. Philadelphia was among just 7 localities to see a decrease, compared to 60 that saw an increase, according to a recently released report from the Pennsylvania State Police.
Only Lackawanna, Potter, and Delaware counties saw a bigger percentage drop in the number of permits issued in 2020, with Lackawanna posting a 34 percent decline. Philadelphia saw the largest raw-number decline by issuing 1,795 fewer licenses in 2020 than in 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department and the sheriff’s departments in the three other counties did not respond to requests for comment.
The drop in licenses issued by Philadelphia came even as gun sales in the city jumped by more than 158 percent to 31,368. That far outpaces the 54 percent increase experienced by the rest of the state.
Philly’s abnormal downturn in issuing licenses may hurt the city in future litigation. It stems from city officials’ decision to shut down the application process at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and to keep it shut down longer than counties in the rest of the state.
Philly officials made it virtually impossible to receive a concealed carry license when they shut down the licensing bureau for months, which not only deprived residents of their right to bear arms but created a backlog in applications that the Philadelphia police still haven’t cleared.
Now, there’s virtually no chance that Mayor Jim Kenney, District Attorney Larry Krasner, or members of the Philadelphia City Council will embrace Mill’s call for open carry, but his comments highlight a growing problem for Democrats; more and more folks on the Left are waking up to the fact that gun control activists are no allies of criminal justice reform advocates like Mill.
While Mill has been calling for reforms that would lead to less incarceration for non-violent offenses, the gun control movement is all about incarceration. Organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady, and Giffords are dedicated to creating crimes out of our right to keep and bear arms; gun and magazine bans, restrictions on ammunition purchases, and subjective licensing laws to both own and carry a firearm in self-defense, to name just a few. Many Democrats have given up on the War on Drugs, but want to replace it with a War on Guns instead.
Meek Mill is right that Philadelphia is failing to protect residents while making it extraordinarily difficult for them to legally protect themselves. That in turn will inevitably lead to folks choosing to break the law and carry a firearm for self-defense even though they don’t have a license to carry. For gun control advocates intent on banning and arresting our way to safety, every new arrest is proof that the system is working. For an increasing number of folks, including Mill, however, the arrests are proof that these gun control laws aren’t doing a damn thing to make Philadelphia or other cities safer.