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GOA lawsuit forces Philly to reopen gun permit office closed over COVID

Man carrying a holstered handgun. (Clinger Holsters/Flickr)
December 10, 2020

The Philadelphia Police Department Gun Permit Unit (GPU) is once again accepting applications for a license to carry firearms after Gun Owners of America (GOA) filed suit against the city over excessive application processing delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the city of Philadelphia reopened its Gun Permit Unit (GPU) and began allowing residents to submit gun-carry permits by email, the Philadelphia Police Department website stated.

In October, GOA had filed suit against the city after applicants for gun-carry permits were experiencing excessive delays beyond the time period permitted by law. Gun Owners of America, Inc., et. al. vs. City of Philadelphia and Commissioner Danielle M. Outlaw sought to push the city into accepting and processing LTCF applications within the lawful time period.

The lawsuit also provided Philadelphia with the option to accept applications via email, echoing other counties throughout Pennsylvania, to alleviate staff concerns about social distancing.

According to a GOA press release, the Philadelphia GPU initially responded to the suit by staffing additional personnel to take applications five days a week in an effort to expedite processing. The move didn’t last long, however, and on November 18, Philadelphia closed the GPU due to what they said was “several positive COVID-19 cases.”

“Due to several positive COVID-19 cases and the need to quarantine as advised by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Gun Permits Unit will be closed to the public beginning on Wednesday, November 19…and will re-open on Monday, December 7,” a statement from the GPU read.

The closure included all walk-up services, as well as previously scheduled appointments, in order to allow all Philadelphia Police Department facilities and locations impacted by the positive COVID-19 diagnoses to be sanitized and deep cleaned.

“COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Philadelphia and as essential workers on the pandemic’s frontline, the Philadelphia Police Department will continue to take all necessary health and safety precautions while serving the public,” the GPU statement said.

“While it was unfortunate for the officers, the COVID exposure was proof-positive that the City’s system did not work,” said Andrew Austin, attorney for GOA and the ten plaintiffs suing the City. “The City represented to the Court that the unit would reopen on December 7th, and when they couldn’t do so, they had no other choice but to concede and begin accepting applications by alternate means.”

In addition to GOA’s lawsuit, the Firearms Policy Coalition put additional pressure on the city, suing Philadelphia in Federal Court on November 20.

“I’m also pleased that the GPU is beginning to accept LTCF applications again,” said Dr. Val Finnell, Pennsylvania Director for GOA.  “We are reminding applicants that the GPU has 45 days to issue their LTCF. If not, I’ve asked them to contact us if they experience delays.”