A loophole closed: The attorney general ends a gun permit fiasco

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has been on the job for only a month and already she has succeeded in doing what her predecessors and state lawmakers failed to do -- she has closed the Florida loophole on gun permits.

The loophole was an affront to Pennsylvania's sovereignty and it made a mockery of the process of ensuring that only responsible, law-abiding people could get concealed-carry permits for firearms. In the end, it didn't need a new piece of legislation to fix the problem. All it needed was an official -- read Ms. Kane -- to care enough and summon the will.

Here is how this notorious backdoor caper worked. If a Pennsylvania applicant for a gun carry permit was rejected in this state because of dubious character or criminal background, he could apply to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (another absurdity!) and Pennsylvania would have to accept Florida's judgment over its own. No matter how ridiculous, this is what reciprocity demanded.

This wasn't just a theoretical worry. A troublemaker named Marqus Hill was rejected for a Pennsylvania conceal-carry permit so he applied to Florida and was given one. Then, in 2010, he was charged with shooting to death an 18-year-old.

Responsible gun owners should not be alarmed because no harm has been done to them. Reciprocity still lives. Ms. Kane simply closed the loophole by seeking a modified arrangement with Florida, citing authority the Legislature gave attorneys general in 1995 to reach agreements with other states.

Under the new terms, if the 4,000 Pennsylvanians who have a Florida gun permit don't also hold one from Pennsylvania, they must apply for one within 120 days. Pennsylvania still recognizes Florida permits for nonresidents here and Florida still recognizes Pennsylvania permits for nonresidents there, but gone are the days when a Pennsylvania resident can use a concealed-carry permit from Florida instead of one from his home state.

Pennsylvania has gun reciprocity with 28 states, 18 of them by formal agreement. Although Florida has been the state with the most popular loophole, other states may pose problems too.

A spokesman for the attorney general said that other agreements will be examined. In a very short time, Ms. Kane and her staff have developed a common-sense remedy that others could not.

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