Philadelphia is facing a new lawsuit in a year-long battle over gun-carry licenses.
A gun-rights group filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s largest city in state court on Monday for refusing to issue the licenses to residents. Gun Owners of America (GOA) claims the city is withholding the licenses in violation of state law. And it’s not the first time.
“Last October, Philadelphia wanted residents to wait months just to apply. Now they want residents to wait months to pick up their application,” Andrew Austin, who is representing GOA in the case, told The Reload. “Gun Owners of America sued them last year—forcing them to take applications—and now we have to sue them again so they’ll issue them.”
Despite applying for licenses to carry a gun and being approved for one by the Philadelphia Police Department, five residents claim in the suit the department has refused to actually issue their permits. Instead, they’ve been told they are not allowed to legally carry a gun until they pick up their license during an in-person appointment, and the appointments aren’t available for 100 days or more. They claim withholding the licenses violates a state law requiring the documents to be issued or denied within 45 days of an application being submitted.
“We are merely asking that the city follow the law exactly as written,” Austin said. “But it’s Philadelphia, so I am not at all surprised.”
Miguel Torres, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, said the department would not make a statement on the situation “due to civil litigation” and referred The Reload to lawyers representing the city in the case. Lydia Furst, one of the lawyers representing the city, told The Reload “the city does not comment on pending litigation.”
The new chapter in the legal fight comes after a state police report found the number of new gun-carry licenses jumped by 25 percent in Pennsylvania as a whole but actually fell 19 percent in Philadelphia. The city shuttered its application process altogether for most of 2020. It refused to allow residents to submit applications without obtaining an appointment that, at points, wasn’t available for over a year. The city abandoned its onerous application process after losing the first legal battle with GOA and opened up an online application process in December—but not before its policies resulted in the largest drop in the raw number of permits issued by a Pennsylvania locality.
Demand for licenses has soared in the city. Philadelphia issued 7,440 gun carry licenses in 2020. It has already received 29,718 license applications in 2021, according to Austin.
GOA is hoping a judge will intervene in the case to make sure those Philadelphians can quickly move through the process. It has filed for an emergency preliminary injunction in the case. Austin said the group would continue to fight the city in court until it complies with the 45-day limit set out by state law, even if that means more lawsuits in the future.
“The lesson here is clear: Philadelphia must follow Pennsylvania law,” he said. “If they don’t, GOA will see them in court.”