Friday, September 18, 2020

Philly's New Gun Control Strategy: Gross Mismanagement

By A. Benjamin Mannes

Imagine you’re a victim of domestic violence who is being stalked by your ex. Or maybe you're a single, female realtor showing houses throughout the city. Or you're a small business owner with cash receipts who fears opening and closing her business alone amid the city’s skyrocketing crime rate. 

For most Philadelphians, hiring armed security when most businesses are barely scraping by is unaffordable. At the same time, police manpower is being strangled by the city’s rising crime rate, daily protests and new policies that prevent officers from performing their traditional proactive, preventative policing strategies. These factors all but guarantee an unfortunate circumstance where police will not be there for many at-risk citizens when they need them most.

Therefore, Philadelphians regardless of race, gender or political affiliation are exercising their Second Amendment rights to legally purchase and carry a firearm. An increase in legal gun purchases and carry permit applications amid the civil unrest being allowed by locally elected leaders, comes as no surprise. However, sources confirmed that, citing COVID-19 as an excuse, the Philadelphia Police gun permit unit is preventing qualified citizens from obtaining their gun permits by scheduling their appointments to submit their paperwork out over a year in advance.

Recently, Mayor Kenney, District Attorney Krasner and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw have all cited the need for local gun control as a way to pass the buck for a lack of proven strategies to combat the city’s skyrocketing homicide rate. However; the fact that Outlaw’s department is imposing year-long delays in scheduling simple permitting interviews has caused legal professionals to question whether or not the Kenney administration is starving the police gun permit unit resources as a way to run a backdoor gun control campaign in Philadelphia.

Municipal gun control campaigns have been in the playbook of Democratic mayors for generations – as it’s often been easier to blame the tool used in a crime rather than generations of social policy failures for the fact that criminals are illegally picking up those tools at an alarming rate.

Philadelphia is no exception, having previously attempted to create draconian local gun laws in the way that New York and Chicago do, which differ greatly from the rest of their states. Philadelphia’s attempts, however, were rejected by the state legislature. Furthermore, despite the popularity of gun control as a talking point used to divert attention from failed mental health, law enforcement and education policies – the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the draconian gun control laws passed by cities with few bipartisan checks and balances were unconstitutional.

Philadelphia’s current use of the COVID-19 outbreak to schedule initial gun permit appointments through October 2021 raises numerous questions, especially considering the September 14, 2020 federal court ruling that Pennsylvania’s Coronavirus pandemic restrictions placed on non-essential businesses were unconstitutional. If law enforcement is an essential service and police officers are, of course, working through COVID-19; why is this specific unit closed to the public?

The purpose of an initial permit appointment is to verify your identification to assure that the person on the application and photo you attach to the application is you. They also take your fingerprints to assure that you aren’t legally restricted from obtaining a firearm. This is done in an office setting and, utilizing the same personal protective equipment required by the state to enter a supermarket or bank, there is no reason that the essential personnel in the permit unit can’t continue these appointments safely.

This begs the question as to how appointments are currently being arbitrarily backlogged to the fall of 2021. Once you pull the curtain back, the process of issuing a gun permit was already extremely padded. According to sources within the Philadelphia Police Department, the actual staff time needed to issue a permit takes about two hours. 

The unit takes your prints, looks at your ID, runs your application through the Pennsylvania State Police and National Criminal Information Center (FBI) databases for criminal, mental health or protection from abuse orders - and waits for your fingerprints to come back. Before Commissioner Outlaw assumed command of the department, the average time between application and issuance was five weeks – giving the understaffed office plenty of time to accomplish the two hours of work needed for each applicant.

Another valid question is why the Philadelphia Police Department is the only agency in the Commonwealth’s largest city that issues gun permits. By law, the Pennsylvania State Police and county sheriff in each jurisdiction have the ability to issue carry permits. This duty is normally reserved for county sheriffs in Pennsylvania, especially considering that this is considered a constituent service and, providing them in a fair manner is reflected in that sheriff’s election every four years.

However, despite the considerably larger volume in Philadelphia, permits are only issued by the police department. According to sources within the Police Department – the permit unit has not received any increase in resources, manpower or technological process improvements to meet the increase in applications. 

What does the Philadelphia Police Department have to say about all this? We don't know. An official spokesperson for the department did not respond to a list of questions from Big Trial. 

In neighboring counties, gun permits are being handled differently. 

As COVID-19 and riots raised the volume of permit applications across the state, our bordering Bucks County Sheriff added office hours and even a Levittown satellite office in addition to their Doylestown headquarters to assure their constituents the ability to legally protect themselves. Similarly, in Hazelton and Wilkes-Barre, the Luzerne County Sheriff streamlined the process by pre-screening the paperwork needed in an appointment to assure that the demand was met -- and both counties currently have permit units open during the pandemic.

By imposing year-plus delays in permit applications, Philadelphia is making it impossible for its residents to legally exercise their second Amendment rights. This is part of a disturbing pattern of unconstitutional governance in where, if Philadelphia’s mayor or D.A. don’t like a law, they simply fail to enforce it instead of changing that law through case law and/or legislation.

So the mayor’s police department is creating obstacles to legally-issued gun permits while demanding stricter local gun laws. This is happening at the same time that the elected D.A. is failing to effectively prosecute criminals for violations of existing gun laws. Taken together, these disturbing trends show that city leaders are driving up crime at the same time they're depriving citizens of their rights to protect themselves, all to further their stated gun control agenda.

What’s worse, crime statistics do not support municipal gun control narratives. If crime rates are a direct result of less legal guns, why is Chicago’s crime rate so much higher? Furthermore, why is Philadelphia’s murder rate higher than both Phoenix and Houston, who both have open gun laws, and bigger populations?

These complex, unconstitutional municipal gun laws have little to no proven effect on crime reduction. For example, New York City passed the Sullivan Act in 1911– making New York’s laws some of the most restrictive in America. Was New York safer as a result? Statistics show that violent crime got continually worse despite the Sullivan act until 1994, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani shifted the focus away from gun control laws to aggressive enforcement of existing law, which dropped crime dramatically. 

Similarly, Washington, D.C/ eliminated all civilian gun permits between 1977 and 2008, a law which was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. These laws didn’t stop D.C., a city with over seven citywide federal and municipal police agencies on its streets from becoming the Murder Capital of the United States in 1991; D.C. currently is still in the top ten highest murder rates in America.

What these unconstitutional gun laws are effective in doing is turning otherwise law-abiding gun owners into criminals and/or victims of violent crime. Consider the thousands of New Yorkers who were in compliance with their state’s strenuous gun laws one day, but in violation of them the next day – thanks to the passage of the SAFE act in a closed session of the state assembly after midnight with no public debate. 

Similarly, consider the Pennsylvania state corrections officer charged just over the bridge in New Jersey who got arrested for carrying his legally-permitted weapon. The Pennsylvania officer was charged in New Jersey even though New Jersey Corrections Officers are considered peace officers and covered under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act (LEOSA). But Pennsylvania wouldn’t recognize the same from their counterparts across the Delaware river because Pennsylvania law classifies corrections officers differently than New Jersey does.

I personally experienced this in 2005, when I was charged with bringing my legally permitted weapon from Virginia, where I lived, across the bridge into Washington, D.C. Despite the fact that I was employed as an Inspector with the Department of Homeland Security while pending reinstatement to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, I was charged for carrying a legally purchased weapon with a concealed weapons permit where I resided. 

When I appeared in court the following week for my preliminary hearing, the defendant in front of me in line turned out to be an active duty U.S. Coast Guard officer who was charged with transporting his weapon through D.C. on the way home to Virginia from Maryland -- by the same officer that apprehended me. 

Considering the fact that I was trained by and competed as a competition shooter at the World Police & Fire Games for the same agency that charged me, the fact that my record is now permanently marred for carrying a weapon across a bridge shows how ludicrous these laws are.

Put simply, if a driver’s license issued in one state or county is recognized in another state or county, why are gun permits any different? 

If laws barring a citizen from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights are federal (i.e., a felony conviction, restraining order, or court-documented mental health issue); and local  law enforcement agencies issuing permits use the same state & federal databases, then why should Philadelphia (or any other municipality for that matter) have completely different rules for issuing gun permits than every other county in the state?

The answer – because for political hacks like Jim Kenney and Larry Krasner, the gun control issue is more important than the actual safety of their constituents.

A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with North America’s largest medical board. He can be found at


  1. "We need more gun control laws so Larry Krasner can starting ignoring those ones too!" - The liberals

  2. Crossbows - while they are bulkier and harder to reload - are excellent for home defense if you are a good shot. The 'bolt' that they shoot has a tremendous amount of kinetic energy.

  3. Wait you were an Inspector with DJS and didn’t have the rights to Title 18? I’m not getting that portion

    1. No, critical infrastructure inspectors (TSA, IAIP, FEMA) don't carry and DC didn't honor VA or 218 in 2005.

    2. Right. Inspectors (non-CBP) are all civilians.

  4. Minor correction: The PA LTCF does not require fingerprints to be submitted or taken.

    The only additional items are:
    Two additional forms of "residency" documentation are required in Philadelphia County (not required by PA Law) and an in-person interview with members of the staff of the Philadelphia "Gun Unit".

    The cost, forms, and requirements are the same as the rest of the state.

  5. The PA state police have no authority to issuues permits to carry. Title 18 specifically gives that authority to the sheriff in each county, with the only exemption being Philadelphia County.

  6. Philly got spanked for asking for references on the LTCF. Now their being sued by the GOA because they are breaking the law not issuing permits. Why won't Philly just obey the laws everyone else have to obey?


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