Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Is Philly's Big Gun Permit Giveaway A Liability Problem?

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Over the past 17 months, the Philadelphia Police Department under the "leadership" of Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Outlaw has issued a total of 76,433 new licenses to carry concealed firearms.

Last year, this amounted to a more than 700% increase in new licenses to carry. 

How did they do it? How did the Philly Police Department whack the time it takes to get a license to carry from the old standard of 40 days all the way down to just one week? 

They did it by basically blowing out all of the local safeguards that had been in place for decades, such as requiring an applicant seeking a gun permit to answer all the questions in a three-page questionnaire during a face-to-face interview with a cop. Prior to last year, if you wanted a gun permit, the Philly P.D. also used to take your fingerprints, conduct a background check, and ask for proof of residency.

But now that the city has done away with all of those traditional safeguards, does that create a liability problem?

While city lawyers were hiding under their desks last week, and refusing to answer any questions about the Big Gun Permit Giveaway, I asked Mark Zecca for his opinion. And Zecca, a former senior attorney in the city's Law Department who used to handle gun legislation, thinks the city has a problem. 

"Whenever the city fails to do it’s job and somebody gets hurt by that failure, there is potential liability," Zecca wrote in an email. "The city should realize that it might face liability by those injured by improperly issued permits from a very bad city policy and practice."

The Pennsylvania state Uniform Firearms Act states that in a first-class city such as Philadelphia, it's up to the police commissioner to determine whether to deny a gun permit to "An individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety."

But the city did away with all of its old safeguards to identify individuals who might be dangerous to public safety, such as background checks, fingerprints and requiring proof of residency, for two reasons.

One, a couple of gun owners groups had sued the city because the Gun Permit Unit had stayed closed for months during the pandemic, and people weren't getting their applications processed within the state's legal limit of 45 days.

Two, the city was running a daily backlog of between 800 and 1,000 applications for new licenses to carry.

So the city decided to solve its problems by dumping all of its old safeguards. Instead, the Police Department went to a shorter questionnaire that could be filled out online. The PPD also decided to leave the background checks to the state, in the form of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System [PICS] used by firearms dealers to verify who can legally buy a firearm.

Keep in mind, all of this was done in the name of expediency. The Gun Permit Unit, open five days a a week, is a place where the cops are presently approving 220 new licenses to carry a day or 4,496 new licenses to carry every month. 

I asked Zecca if he was still working in the law department, what would be his advice to the cops who run the Gun Permit Unit.

"Based on my conversations with the staff of the [Gun Permit] unit in the past and with the city attorney who I advised who worked with that unit in setting up the whole process, I would advise them to reinstate the same process that they did have in the past," Zecca wrote in an email.

He also gave a strong defense of the old way the Gun Permit Unit used to be run.

"Some people have complained that the city asks additional questions beyond what is in the mandated state form that the statute requires," Zecca wrote.

He's right; the old city form asked 25 questions, the new state form asks 12.

"However, this is lawful because the statute requires not only that form, but an investigation and a determination as to dangerousness" of the applicant, Zecca said. "There is simply no way that the Police Department can do its job in Philadelphia to make that determination without doing an investigation. And an investigation requires additional questions."

Critics of the old, slow way the city processed applications for new licenses to carry say the city was too strict, especially when compared with how relatively easy it is in the suburbs to obtain a license to carry.

Zecca has an answer for those critics.

"With respect to that required investigation, Philadelphia is not the suburbs," Zecca said. "We need to ask more questions here."

"In Philadelphia, the experience of the Gun Permit Unit has shown that there are many, many types of incidents that demonstrate that a person should not be issued a license to carry in Philadelphia -- that have never resulted in a criminal conviction or an involuntary mental institutionalization," Zecca wrote.

"For example, a person may have committed serious crimes where no conviction was obtained because witnesses were intimidated," Zecca wrote. 

"Or, charges may have been placed into ARD or other diversionary programs." 

"Or, prosecution policy may have dropped charges."

"Or there may have been private criminal complaints that the court system encouraged the complainants to withdraw."

"Or there may have been domestic or mental situations resolved without criminal charges or involuntary commitments," Zecca wrote. "These are just some of the situations."
"As former President Judge [Bonnie Brigance] Leadbetter [now Senior Judge] of the Commonwealth Court, recently said in a concurring opinion, there can be local conditions that call for greater firearm restrictions," Zecca wrote.

"And the Pennsylvania General Assembly itself has recognized these special conditions in Philadelphia by enacting a special crime of carrying a firearm on the streets of Philadelphia without a license," Zecca wrote. 

"This law applies only to Philadelphia. So, outside Philly, a license is not required to carry openly. But, in Philadelphia, a license is required to carry either openly or concealed."

Here is that statute:

§ 6108. Carrying firearms on public streets or public property in Philadelphia.
No person shall carry a firearm, rifle or shotgun at any time upon the public streets or upon any public property in a city of the first class unless:

(1) such person is licensed to carry a firearm; or

(2) such person is exempt from licensing under section 6106(b) of this title (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license).

So there you have it, folks.

In a city that set all-time records last year for murders, non-fatal shootings and carjackings, the Police Department is now putting more guns on the street every work day by issuing an average of 220 new licenses to carry.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kenney's spokesperson refuses to explain why our woke mayor, who usually blames the gun lobby for Philadelphia's epidemic of gun violence, decided to roll over for their benefit last year, thereby opening the floodgates for new licenses to carry. 

And the lawyers in the city's Law Department, rather than answer any questions, are still hiding under their desks.

In Philadelphia, this is what passes for leadership. 


  1. Great article Ralph as always!! Maybe now the individual who was challenging you in the last article can stop thinking they KNOW the law especially concerning this issue regarding issuing of permits in the city of Philadelphia. Backgrounding individuals consist of investigation into who the person is, knowing of their parents to help identify who they are; some people could be adopted and under other names. These are important investigatory questions. Noone ever interviewed my parents but it helped in my identification. When others I know of have permits, that probably really shouldn't, it bought me to question HOW? !! Things have become absolutely laxed and so scary knowing that almost anyone can be issued a license to carry. Some people now rush to get a permit to protect themselves from the ones with a permit who really should not have them. Pray for our city.

    1. So are there stats on the number of license holders who commit crimes with their carried firearm? Isn't there a minimum standard defined in the UFA....pa crimes code sec 6100.....for a license to be issued?

  2. I fail to see how any of this in any way abrogates the state law that explicitly prohibits the issuing authority from disclosing any information regarding applicants to the public. 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(i). Asking questions about parents, spouses, doctors that have treated the applicant in the past, etc. strongly implies that the asker is going to use this information to contact them and in doing so break the law. "It's
    always been like that" is a lame excuse. This also isn't the 70's where everything exists on paper only, any cop in America can find a detailed history of anyone with the information available on a driver's license in a minute or two.

    The discrepancy in the old license questions wasn't between Philadelphia and the benighted "suburbs", it was Philadelphia vs.
    the rest of the state including but not limited to Allegheny county(Pittsburgh) and Dauphin
    county(Harrisburg), which are also urban areas last time I checked. All of whom asked no such questions since the start of concealed carry licensing. There was a section asking for two references that were not family members however few issuing authorities used these due to the confidentiality provisions and now most will instruct applicants to just leave it blank.

    Nothing really prohibits the Philadelphia gun unit from using records on dismissed/withdrawn charges to deny a license however this brings up issues of fairness and due process. If someone is accused of a crime but never given a
    trial due to withdrawn charges is it fair to treat them as a convict? Force them to pay a lawyer to clear their name again?

    Finally, I fail to see how a law mandating licensure for both open carry and concealed carry applicable only to Philadelphia somehow authorizes the city to then pick
    and choose what state laws are null and void within city limits. That cafeteria pick and choose mentality sounds like something larry krasner would endorse, given his predisposition to nullify state laws
    regarding premeditated and felony murder.

    I would love to have a state-run concealed carry licensing system similar to what Texas and Florida currently use, both of whom
    require a training class and collect fingerprints and as a result are accepted by more states for reciprocity, but we have what we have. There's also about a 0% chance Governor Wolf or his little toadie enforcer Josh Shapiro (God help us if he gets elected governor) would let such legislation pass without sneaking in whatever the champagne socialists think is good for us little people.

    I really do like the content on this site but I think we can agree to disagree on this one.

  3. Given that 4 individuals are in custody for the deadly attack last week at 2nd and South Sts., if 50% of these criminals are identified as not having been subject to the proper review and investigation, the consequences will be devastating for the city ( it has already been so for those seriously injured and killed in the attack as well as their families).

    In a similar city process, the Water Rate Board, where 60% of the board are attorneys, it seems to this writer that the philosophy and protocol for "risk management" for city administration would be more correctly identified as "care-less management." Once again, the old adage rings true..........city counsel defending the administration`s decision and conduct (whether gun permits or PWD excavation) is NOT the same as acting in the best interests of Philadelphia citizens.

    I have an ethical obligation to ensure that the reckless and dangerous PWD excavation outside of my residence as previously described in 2016 is thoroughly, objectively, completely and independently reviewed and studied and that is a promise, not to city officals or management, but to the citizens of this city.

  4. The "3 page questionnaire" was illegal. State law required a single sheet application, of which the questions were on it. Any other document beyond the state prescribed form is illegal. Only the form that the PA State Police has created is allow by PA law.

    BTW, any violation of the Uniform Firearms Act, including by municipalities, is at minimum a 1st Degree Misdemeanor punishable by 5 years in prison - unless a passages has an otherwise grading for the specific offense. Whomever created and required those forms, or anything beyond state law, is a criminal.

    Law allows for 45 days to issue. It doesn't say the process must take 45 days. A bunch of other counties issue right over the counter as soon as passing an Instant Background Check.. ....it isn't a problem.

    Philly has one of the lowest density of licenses to carry firearms per number of residents in the entire state. My counties has a near 1 license per 4 residents. If you only count folks that are 21yo and older, it is nearly 1 in 3. I cant remember the last time we had a murder here.

    1. The former city solicitor I quoted didn't quite agree with your legal analysis. But since you write in so often, and insist on having the last word, you must be right about all of this.

    2. City City Solicitor was wrong, he's a paid shill for the city.

      Here is a quote from actual LAW, one page only, and only the PSP form is allowed.
      PA Title 18, Chapter 61, Subchapter 6109(c)
      (c) Form of application and content.--The application for a license to carry a firearm shall be uniform throughout this Commonwealth and shall be on a form prescribed by the Pennsylvania State Police. The form may contain provisions, not exceeding one page, to assure compliance with this section. Issuing authorities shall use only the application form prescribed by the Pennsylvania State Police.

      Then here is a quote that is being a crime to violate the UFA.
      Title 18, Chapter 61, Subchapter 6119.
      § 6119. Violation penalty.
      Except as otherwise specifically provided, an offense under this subchapter constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree.

  5. What an idiotic, statist take on this issue.

  6. The conspiracy theorist in me, knowing the city's opposition to preemption and disgust at having Pennsyltucky gun rights policy forced down their throats, looks at this situation and Obama's Fast and Furious comes to mind . . .

    Would the city use criminals and death to advance anti-gun rights policy? This seems to be the perfect companion to Krasner's criminal coddling prosecutorial agenda. Having swarms of criminals with LTCF's and a citable death toll, will serve to advance the city's argument that respecting gun rights has too high a cost for the city so it should be granted the "right" to set its own restrictive gun policy.

    Philly Democrats couldn't be that despicable could they?


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