If Florida officials hadn’t helped a Philadelphia man skirt the city’s strict handgun-permit rules, a would-be thief might have gotten a chance to mend his ways. Now it’s too late for Irving Santana, 18. He was shot to death early Sunday morning by a man police say caught Santana and two friends breaking into cars in the Hunting Park neighborhood. It’s not too late, though, for Pennsylvania officials to close the absurd loophole in state gun laws that helped to arm the alleged shooter — Marqus Hill, now charged with murder.
Hill, 28, had no business carrying a gun. Philadelphia police had stripped him of his license after a 2005 confrontation with officers. When Hill lost his 2008 appeal to regain a gun permit, he assaulted a police officer in a courtroom. Because Hill wasn’t convicted of a crime, he was able to pass muster when Florida ran a background check. Along with providing fingerprints and proof of firearms training, that’s about all Florida requires of out-of-state residents who seek a gun permit.
Utah and New Hampshire also issue permits to nonresidents, even if the applicants’ home states denied or revoked permits. That ignores the fact that there’s often good reason Pennsylvania authorities refuse a gun permit. Yet Florida alone has issued between 3,000 and 4,000 permits to Keystone State gun owners who likely have been refused permits, often on grounds that police consider them a risk.
State Rep. Bryan R. Lentz (D., Delaware) has a solution to what clearly is a threat to public safety: His proposed legislation would bar state residents ineligible for a permit here from using permits issued elsewhere. Introduced in May, the measure awaits action by the legislature. Unfortunately, Harrisburg lawmakers remain in lockstep with the National Rifle Association.
So the faster route to closing the out-of-state loophole would be for state Attorney General Tom Corbett to end or alter the state’s reciprocity deal with Florida to prevent gun permits for anyone ineligible for a Pennsylvania permit, as the antigun-violence group CeaseFirePA urged Friday. Even though Corbett, the Republican candidate for governor, is arm in arm with the NRA, he should do the right thing on out-of-state gun permits.