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Pa. closes loophole allowing residents to obtain concealed gun permit from Fla.

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 12:28 p.m.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Thursday rejected Gov. Tom Corbett’s contract with a British-based firm to privatize management of the state lottery. (AP)

Pennsylvanians who are denied permits to carry a concealed weapon no longer will be able to use Florida as a legal end-around.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Friday closed a loophole that allowed Pennsylvania residents to apply for a permit from Florida under that state's more relaxed rules.

About 4,000 Pennsylvanians have received Florida permits since 2001, Kane said. They will have 120 days to apply for a valid Pennsylvania permit from their county sheriff's office.

“Our state's gun traffic and permits should never be bypassed,” Kane said in Philadelphia, where she was joined by law enforcement officials, elected mayors from around the state and gun violence prevention advocates.

Pennsylvania has written agreements with 18 states, including Florida, that allow residents to carry a concealed weapon there. Residents of the cooperating states can carry a concealed weapon here.

Closing the loophole will not affect Florida residents' ability to carry a concealed weapon in Pennsylvania, Kane's office said.

Both states deny permits to felons, but Pennsylvania has a morals clause that allows authorities to reject applications from known suspects or people with substantial arrest records.

Florida has reciprocal agreements with 35 states but no residency requirement for permit-holders, said Whitney Shiver, a government analyst with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which issues Florida's firearms permits.

“There are probably people from all 50 states who have licenses through us,” Shiver said.

Pennsylvanians wishing to carry a Florida permit because of the additional states where it is recognized will still be able to do so even though Pennsylvania will not honor it, she said.

The Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association said Kane's announcement will have a ripple effect for gun owners in other states, pointing to residents of neighboring Delaware, which does not have a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania.

“However, until this modification of the Florida reciprocity agreement, they could have undergone another background check and fingerprinting for the Florida license and legally carried in Pennsylvania,” said Daniel Pehrson, founder and president of the gun-rights group in Philadelphia.

“Now, they are no longer allowed to lawfully carry their firearm here regardless of their clean criminal history.”

The new agreement “leaves many gun owners uneasy because of the arbitrary nature of some Pennsylvania issuing authorities and the financial burden of maintaining many different licenses for lawful travel throughout the country,” Pehrson said

The Legislature in 1995 gave the attorney general authority over all firearm reciprocity agreements with other states.

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA, a gun-control advocacy group in Harrisburg that supports Kane's action, encouraged her to look into more states' permitting process.

“She has the power to look at all of these other agreements,” Goodman said. “We need to make sure they have the same regulations and standards.”

Kane also garnered the backing of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which is made up of more than 850 mayors nationwide, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

“For too long, we have allowed the Florida Department of Agriculture to dictate which of our residents may carry concealed firearms on our streets,” Rick Gray, mayor of Lancaster and chairman of the group's Pennsylvania chapter, said in a prepared statement.

Bruce Eimer, a psychologist and licensed firearms instructor in Huntingdon Valley, said closing the loophole raises troubling questions. He cited Virginia, which also issues permits to nonresidents and has a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania residents, if they want to carry in Pennsylvania, should have a Pennsylvania permit. I support that,” Eimer said. “Now the question comes up, ‘Can people do the loophole thing with a Virginia license?' I don't know.”

Kane could not be reached for further comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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