District Attorney Kathleen Kane on Friday amended one provision that has long rankled gun control advocates by closing the so-called "Florida loophole," a reciprocity agreement allowing Pennsylvanians whose concealed carry gun permits are denied or revoked to legally obtain them from the Sunshine State, where requirements for firearm ownership are generally more lax.
"Our state's gun traffic and permits should never be bypassed," Kane said in a statement. "Closing this loophole shows that it is possible to swiftly implement common sense gun safety measures that protect our streets. This is my administration's first official step, but it certainly will not be our last."
Kane estimates that 4,000 Pennsylvanians currently hold Florida concealed carry permits. Pennsylvania had in 2011 more residents, per capita, with Florida permits than any other state except for Florida, according to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
"Fundamentally, this is an issue about states rights," Williams said in a statement praising Kane's action. "Why would we allow officials in another state to decide which Pennsylvanians may carry a concealed weapon in Pennsylvania?"
"General Kane correctly recognizes that it is bad policy to cede important law enforcement decisions to officials who know nothing about Pennsylvania from other states."
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He pointed to the Sept. 2010 death of 18-year-old Irving Santana, who was shot 13 times by Hunting Park man – and legally-licensed gun owner – Marqus Hill.
Though Hill's Pennsylvania concealed carry permit was revoked and his appeal to get it back denied, he was able to obtain from Florida a permit for the gun he used to kill Santana. Hill claimed he shot the teen because he was breaking into his car, but was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to eight to 20 years in jail.
Other local lawmakers issued statements expressing relief. City Council members said they were heartened that, after years of attempting to stem gun violence through city ordinances, they are finally being backed up with more muscle on the state level.
"City Council and the Mayor have approved numerous laws that would make it tougher for criminals to access deadly firearms," Council President Darrell Clarke said. "And we have watched in frustration as those laws were ignored or overturned by faraway courts."
Under Kane's new provision, Pennsylvanians with Florida permits will have 120 days – or until June 8 –to apply for concealed carry permits in their county of residence.
“The time to act has long passed," Clarke said. "I am so grateful Attorney General Kane recognizes the urgency of this issue that affects the lives of Philadelphians nearly every day.”
More than 200 Pennsylvania mayors with coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns in December sent Kane a letter urging her to end the reciprocity agreement. Members expressed gratitude for her response.
"This is a significant step toward making Philadelphia, and the entire Commonwealth, safer for all residents," said longtime member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Mayor Michael Nutter.
"Modification of the firearm reciprocity agreement with Florida will ensure that all citizens with concealed carry permits in Pennsylvania have met the standards set forth by our great state. I congratulate Attorney General Kane for taking swift action on this important issue."