You Don’t Need a License to Own a Gun In Philadelphia
You’ve probably heard about the National Rifle Association‘s lawsuit against Philadelphia, which challenged several of the city’s gun laws that are more restrictive than Pennsylvania state law. Well, a judge just struck the NRA lawsuit down, ruling that the organization had no standing to bring it in the first place. But even though the NRA had its panties in a bunch, it turns out that availing yourself of the Second Amendment in the city where it was conceived is probably easier than you think. Here’s what you need to know:
I want to keep a gun in my house for personal protection. Do I need a permit?
Nope. You can simply buy a gun and keep it in your home. That said, there are certain types of people for whom it is illegal to possess a gun at all, including violent felons and the “mentally incompetent.” But as for your average, sane, law-abiding citizens, getting and keeping a gun is easy.
OK, so no permit. But certainly I have to register it and get a license, right?
Nope again. There is no such thing as a license to own a gun in Philadelphia. And there is no gun registry, per se.
But what about these background checks I’m always hearing about?
That’s PICS, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System. If you go to a gun shop in Pennsylvania for a gun, the dealer is required to run you through PICS before selling one to you. According to the Pennsylvania State Police, 60 percent of prospective buyers are approved in a matter of minutes. If you’re denied, you can challenge the decision.
Some gun owners consider this to be a gun registry, because the records are maintained in a database.
What if I want to carry my gun outside of my house?
No matter where you live in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to apply for a license to carry a firearm. You apply in the county where you live. In Philadelphia, that’s the Philadelphia Police Department’s Gun Permits Unit on the second floor of 990 Spring Garden Street.
Although references are still requested on the application, that’s only because the city’s application is outdated. (Because of course it is.) As the result of a lawsuit, references are no longer required.
The permitting process in Philadelphia will take several weeks. If you’re turned down, guess who hears the appeal? The Department of Licenses & Inspection. Yeah, so good luck with that. (In other words, expect to hire a lawyer.)
So if I get a carry permit, I can just stroll down the Parkway with a gun sticking out of my jeans?
Well, that’s a bit trickier. There is no law specifically prohibiting open carry in Philadelphia, assuming you have a standard license to carry, but most responsible gun owners we know think open carry within the city is a pretty bad idea.
“I support open carry, but it is not practical in many places,” says Christopher Sawyer, blogger and Republican candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia. “If I was living in the Northeast and not near any crowded places, sure. Would I want to carry openly on the El? Hell no. You have to have a locking holster, you’ll get grief caused by riders reporting false alarms to SEPTA Police, and in a packed train, if something does go down inside, you are nearly guaranteed to hit an innocent.”
Handguns and rifles are all well and good. But what if I want a rocket launcher?
First of all, you don’t need a rocket launcher. But if you really want one, you’ll have to ask the feds for permission. There is a long list of guns and “destructive devices” that you can’t just go around buying. This list includes rocket launchers and also things like grenades, cane guns, machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers.
Does Philadelphia itself prohibit certain types of guns that are allowed elsewhere in the state?
Well, it tries to. City Council has passed all sorts of gun laws that are more restrictive than the state’s, hence the NRA lawsuit. For instance, the city has enacted a ban on semi-automatic rifles. But guess who owns one? Sheriff candidate Sawyer.
“Every gun law that City Council passes will never be enforced,” says Sawyer. “Because to do so would result in an embarrassing appeal through the courts and a damage award for being prosecuted under a local law that’s invalid. … I own several items which are ruled ‘illegal’ by City Council. But they’re allowed by my state.”
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