WHAT IS the so-called "Florida loophole," and why is it such a bone of contention in Philadelphia?

Under reciprocity agreements with Florida and some other states, Pennsylvanians can get nonresident permits from those states through the mail to carry concealed weapons, even without a Pennsylvania permit.

Philly cops say it allows people who have been denied a gun permit in Philadelphia to circumvent local authorities.

But gun-rights advocates say that it's necessary, because the Philadelphia Police Department is much stricter on applicants than other counties in the state.

Philadelphia requires an additional interview and questionnaire, and relies heavily on a clause that allows denial of a permit based on "character and reputation alone," according to police and permit-holders. This allows denials based on just arrests and not convictions. Lt. Fran Healy, special adviser to the police commissioner, said that it's a "catchall provision" that gives police a lot more latitude.

"Technically, you can be allowed to carry a gun, but all your neighbors may know you're a danger," Healy said.

"Florida runs you through the system and looks at the black and white, they don't look at character and reputation."

But gun-rights advocates say that permits from Florida and some other other states are more widely accepted and are even stricter in some ways, such as requiring a firearms-safety course.

Healy said that a major problem with the Florida permit is that the 800 phone number on the back for officers to check its validity is not accessible 24 hours a day.

A Florida official confirmed that, but said that police can call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at any time to check a permit's validity.

State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-Delaware County, has sponsored a House bill that would close the "loophole." He recently held a public hearing in Upper Darby on the proposal.

- Stephanie Farr