License to kill in Killadelphia

We have people shot and killed here in Philadelphia so often, residents refer to the city as “Killadelphia.” But every time city officials try to make it even a little bit harder for anti-social types to carry a gun, conservative legislators slap it down. In this case, it’s not just Pennsylvania legislators — it’s the state of Florida, who will give a license to carry to just about anyone with a pulse. The backward-thinking wingnuts of our state house figured it would be a good way to curry favor with the cash-strewing NRA if we simply signed a reciprocal agreement with Florida, thus sandbagging the intent of Philadelphia legislators to control gun crime. Freedom!

Florida permits are attractive because the chances of being approved there are far higher than in Philadelphia.

Last year, for example, 15 percent of Philadelphia’s permit applications were denied. (Nearly 4,400 permits were approved in the city during the same period.)

Florida denied 1 percent.

Philadelphia police said that when they cannot quickly verify an out-of-state license, their commanders have told them to take the permits and guns from the suspects.

That has spurred lawsuits, some of which have been settled for cash awards, and problems of community relations.

Montrell Bolden said he was suing. He said he got his Florida permit after being acquitted of drug charges in 2007.

He says police subsequently detained him in 2009 and confiscated his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson, which he said was worth $800, and never returned it. He said the Florida permit was valid at the time.

Bolden currently is facing new drug-dealing charges but said that should have had no bearing on his suit.

The person who got the biggest settlement is also in part responsible for Philadelphia’s dramatic increase in Florida permits.

Richard Oliver, who runs the Parapet Group security firm, received a $20,000 arbitration award after his 2009 arrest on charges that he was carrying a concealed firearm without a license – a felony. The case was quickly dismissed, but the record of the arrest still has not been expunged.

A memo on the arbitration award, written by the city attorney, said police refused Oliver’s “request for medical treatment and for physician-prescribed medication which he takes for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and edema.”

Oliver said in an interview that he showed police not just his Florida gun permit but also valid permits from New Hampshire and Utah. Police also rejected them, he said.

He had the permits because part of his business has been training people to get out-of-state permits.

Oliver estimated that he had helped 100 to 200 people get Florida licenses during the last five years.

“In Philadelphia, you can’t get a permit to carry if you owe parking tickets,” he said. “You owe the city, you cannot get a permit to carry.”

Ronald Robinson agrees. He also was arrested by Philadelphia police for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, a case that was subsequently dismissed.

“It’s protection. It’s a right,” Robinson said of his license to carry. “I didn’t go though loopholes.”

He said Philadelphia police denied his application for a concealed-weapons permit because of his past conviction for resisting arrest.

Robinson had pleaded guilty to the charge in 1999 in Delaware County and was put on probation for two years.

Police had contended that he was “the type of person who would hurt someone” when they denied his permit, he said.

So, Robinson said, he simply sent an application to Florida, and had no trouble getting his permit there.

Another Florida permit-holder in Philadelphia, Shykeem Leslie, was viewed by police as a midlevel drug dealer, constantly hustling dope and involved in violent crimes.

Before Leslie got his Florida license in January 2009, he had been arrested in three separate felony cases, involving charges of robbery, drug dealing, and aggravated assault. All those cases were dismissed.

In December 2009, Leslie was arrested twice on drug charges in North Philadelphia.

During one of the arrests, police discovered a secret compartment in the console of his car, between the front seats. Hidden there was $3,650 in cash and 100 packets of drugs.

Police also seized his Florida gun permit, for the second time.

Leslie, 24, never had to go to trial.

In the predawn hours of Aug. 18, 2010, he was felled by a hail of gunfire, shot in the chest, shoulder, and arm in the 3200 block of North 27th Street.

He was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.