PHILADELPHIA, PA– As concerns grow over COVID-19 and it’s spread, more facets of police departments are being temporarily shut down.
One of those portions, at least in Philadelphia, was the police departments gun-permits unit. The temporary closure, which started on March 17th, has caused concerns over locals being able to protect themselves.
Philadelphia police, other Pa. counties, stop issuing license-to-carry permits to gun owners amid coronavirus outbreak https://t.co/XaJXnxDlZo
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) March 20, 2020
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, Inspector Sekou Kinebrew, touched on the gun permit departments closure:
“Because this entire pandemic is inherently fluid, we can’t predict how long it will be closed.”
Time and again, within the past few weeks, we’ve seen law enforcement officials enacting temporary measures to limit officer interactions with the general public to deter the spread of COVID-19.
Philadelphia PD is one of many that have even gone as far as to suspend arrest for certain crimes committed within their jurisdiction.
Even though the department is temporarily not arresting people for laws related to prostitution, drugs, and various burglaries or thefts, they’ll still arrest people for carrying a gun without a permit, according to Kinebrew.
It’s baffling that the police department would arrest people within their city who would normally be eligible to obtain a gun-carry permit.
In a sense, it would essentially create criminals.
The Philadelphia Police Department halted the issuance of concealed carry permits this week after the unit that processes the permit was shut down amid Chinese coronavirus concerns. https://t.co/SLJveWUii1
— 🇺🇸⚔️Sir Rickster⚔️🇺🇸 (@Rickster_75) March 21, 2020
The closure of the permits department, located on Erie Avenue in North Philadelphia, didn’t come without pushback or criticism though. One of those pushing back is Kim Stolfer, who serves as the president of Firearms Owners Against Crime.
Stolfer believes the situation created by the Philadelphia PD creates some conflict with existing state constitution and law:
“It’s illegal. There is no provision in the law allowing it.”
In the event that firearm owners leave their homes with a gun on-person, Stolfer says they’re putting themselves at risk of becoming a felon.
— Scott White (@sdwhite) March 21, 2020
On the flipside of that coin, with the possibility of hysteria increasing due to the pandemic, there’s also a safety risk if non-permit-holders leave the home without their firearm:
“If you want to defend yourself, you can’t do it unless you have a license to carry, and if you can’t get a license to carry you essentially have no right to defend yourself.”
According to Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny, the issuance of carrying permits aren’t an “emergency service.” Hence, he feels the shutdown is justified:
“I am sorry to inconvenience those wishing to receive their license-to-carry permits, but the health of my deputies and staff is paramount to me.”
“I am sorry to inconvenience those wishing to receive their license-to-carry permits, but the health of my deputies and staff is paramount to me.” https://t.co/SewmmQajDu
— Meg A (@MeghanAnomaly) March 21, 2020
Well, what about the health and safety of citizens?
It’s easy to have a position such as Sheriff Kilkenny’s when the workforce is already outfitted with the ability to protect themselves in public via accessible firearms on their person.
On top of the shutdown regarding license-to-carry-permits in Philadelphia, gun shops are likely to be among those forced to shutdown on March 21st.
Governor Tom Wolf announced an emergency order on March 19th proclaiming that only “life-sustaining” businesses can remain open come March 21st.
We must take the threat of #Covid_19 seriously, but I also believe that Pennsylvanians are capable of following the CDC guidelines without being placed on lockdown by @GovernorTomWolf.
This decision will devastate small businesses & the family sustaining jobs they create. https://t.co/4q7di4FsCn
— Sean Parnell (@SeanParnellUSA) March 20, 2020
While one could make the argument that gun shops sell instruments that could sustain life, the governor’s administration specifically pointed out the businesses that may remain open after the shutdown.
Those businesses that can remain open include grocery stores, gas stations, farms, and transit systems, among others.
However, one listed category among the “retail trade” section specifically says that “sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores” will be forced to shut down.
Philly officials were not messing around with Philadelphia Mills today.. “we have sent the police department and L&I to shut down that business.” @KYWNewsradio’s @kurtzpaul got there just in the time to see what was happening… #Coronavirus https://t.co/zrHOGjf4WK
— Char Reese (@creese28) March 19, 2020
While there was no specific mention of “firearm” or “gun” stores in the closure, the business category would likely fall under that delineation.
Governor Wolf justified the move with this statement:
“To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions. This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere. We need to act with the strength we use against any other severe threat.”
Joe Staudt, who owns Staudt’s Gun Shop in Harrisburg, said that he’ll keep his business open so long as the state’s background check system is online and operational:
“I have a drive-through window open right now. If the background check system stays open, we’re open. If it’s closed, we’re closed.”
While Staudt’s position is an admirable one, he could face any number of consequences if he keeps his business open during the mandated order to close up until further notice.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office, Lyndsay Kensinger, explained how the temporary closure of businesses will be enforced:
“Law enforcement has a range of potential actions when enforcing the governor’s business closure order, such as notification that the closure order exists; warning to close; citation; and mandatory closure.”
When it comes to what level of force would be applied in administering these orders, that portion was vaguely conveyed by Kensinger:
“Law enforcement will use appropriate discretion while ensuring that businesses are actively complying with the order.”
Overall, this is a concerning time for those looking to have and carry adequate protection when hysterics are ever-increasing due to COVID-19. We at Law Enforcement Today would like to say to those in Pennsylvania, and across the country, stay safe out there.
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.
Make sure you click “following” and then click “see first” so you don’t miss a thing! (See image below.) Thanks for being a part of the LET family!