Pennsylvania residents soon will not be allowed to hold concealed-carry gun permits from the state of Florida because of a revised agreement announced Friday by Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Also Friday, a group of federal, state and local officials announced a recent raft of prosecutions of gun law violators in Pennsylvania.
Ms. Kane's move closes the so-called "Florida Loophole," through which Pennsylvanians who were denied a concealed-carry permit here or had their in-state permit revoked could apply for one from the state of Florida.
Officials target 'straw purchase' gun sales
U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton and other law enforcement officials talk about a crackdown on people purchasing firearms for felons. (Video by Kalea Hall; 2/9/2013)
Under an updated reciprocity agreement with Florida officials, Pennsylvanians with a Florida permit will have 120 days to obtain a concealed-carry permit from Pennsylvania. Permits held by Florida residents or those with residency in both states still will be recognized as long as the permit-holder is carrying proof of residency.
The state attorney general's office said approximately 4,000 Pennsylvanians have a Florida permit.
"Closing this loophole shows that it is possible to swiftly implement common sense gun safety measures that protect our streets," Ms. Kane said in a statement. "This is my administration's first official step, but it certainly will not be our last."
Gun-control advocates cheered the change as a common sense step toward ensuring that local law enforcement officials determine who is eligible to carry a concealed weapon here.
"We wanted to make sure that people could not evade Pennsylvania standards," said Shira Goodman, executive director for CeaseFirePA. "It only affects people who are not law abiding or are concerned that they will not pass the guidelines."
The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns praised the move.
Separately, federal, state and local officials announced that they have in recent weeks brought 17 criminal cases against firearms law violators, including so-called straw purchasers who buy guns only to turn them over to others, usually felons.
For years, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said Friday, as case after case has proved that felons can easily get firearms, law enforcement has asked the question, "Where are these guns coming from? The short answer is, they're often being traded for drugs," or purchased by the girlfriend or boyfriend of the felon and then handed over.
Cooperation between local and state agencies and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can take illegally bought or owned guns off the streets, he said.
Seven of the recent cases have been brought in U.S. District Court. The other 10 cases are being prosecuted in state court, including four in Washington County, three in Allegheny County, two in Indiana County and one in Greene County.
For instance, Jeffrey Cochenour, 41, of Charleroi is accused in a federal indictment of buying a RomArm/Cugir .39-caliber rifle, intended for an unnamed other person, at a Gander Mountain store.
Charles Douglas Warner, 26, of the Hill District faces eight counts including making false statements to a gun seller, possession of a gun while being a fugitive, being under indictment and being an illegal drug user. The indictment against him, dated Jan. 30, said that in 2009 he twice bought Hi-Point .40-caliber pistols, lying on his application while facing felony drug and gun charges and being a drug user.
One of the defendants, Eric James Beverly, 19, of Beltzhoover is a fugitive. He is accused of having a woman buy guns for him at a time when he was too young to possess one legally.
Mr. Hickton said the concentration of such cases is not driven by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, noting prior prosecutions of similar cases. He said that 80 percent of homicides in Allegheny County last year involved guns.
County Sheriff William Mullen said that his office last year processed around 15,700 permits to carry a concealed gun, up from 12,500 in 2011. He said the office turned down around 2,500 permit applications. In the past five years, he said, the office has revoked 960 permits, largely for irresponsible behavior.
"If you have a legal gun with a concealed-carry permit, you don't go to the Steelers game and leave it on the [car] seat," said Mr. Hickton.
Anyone with information on an illegally purchased or held gun can call 1-800-283-4867.