Gun-Rights Group Sues Philly Over Massive Permit Backlog

Suit: City tells some to wait until 2022 for appointment

Troy Dando poses in his store on August 14, 2016 in Pennsylvania / Getty Images
October 6, 2020

A gun-rights group accused the Philadelphia Police Department of illegally forcing residents to wait up to 18 months to apply for a gun-carry permit in a lawsuit.

Gun Owners of America (GOA) said the city has infringed on the rights of local residents by ignoring a Pennsylvania law that requires localities to process applications within 45 days. Val Finnell, the group's Pennsylvania director, said the lengthy wait times actively harm locals who are seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

"They're essentially denying the right to defend yourself," Finnell told the Washington Free Beacon.

The GOA acknowledged the strain that Covid-19 had placed on government agencies, but said the delays—some stretching into 2022—were unprecedented in the region. While some Pennsylvania cities and counties moved the permitting process online or through the mail to accommodate a surge in gun sales, Philadelphia authorities have made no attempt to abide by state law. Finnell pointed to neighboring Bucks County, which has managed to process applications on a walk-in basis without any of the delays Philadelphia residents face.

"If they say they can delay receiving the application, then they can delay it indefinitely," Finnell said. "Our argument is a right delayed is a right denied."

A spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department declined comment on the pending litigation.

The department has taken action on some appointments. After the Free Beacon published a piece on the months-long waits experienced by some Philadelphia residents, the department reached out to two residents to speed up the process. James Tordella, a medical supply salesman, and Temple Law School alum Jude Joanis saw their appointments moved from January 2021 to October 2020 shortly after their ordeal was first published.

Chris Gonzalez, a south Philadelphia insurance salesman, has not had the same luck. He still has not been able to even talk to anyone in the department to schedule any appointment despite repeated attempts.

"Every time I call, I can never get someone on the line," he told the Free Beacon. "It's a joke."

The GOA suit, which was filed in state court, includes 10 other residents who are not allowed to turn in their applications for months. Two of the defendants have been told they will have to wait until 2022 for an appointment, according to the suit. Finnell said the situation is simply unacceptable.

"They have to figure out a way, like everybody else, of how to handle the problem with COVID going on," he said.

The gun-rights group is asking the court to force the city to accept applications in a timely manner and abide by the 45-day limit for the application process. Finnell said the group hopes a ruling against Philadelphia could be used as precedent for ensuring other Pennsylvania localities do not try and sidestep state law when issuing gun-carry permits.