By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia by gun-carry advocates will force police and other city officials to more strongly adhere to state law in a variety of gun-related matters.
The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections in 2012 posted an interactive map with the names and addresses of residents who had been denied firearm carry permits and then appealed.
The map was taken down three days later, but it prompted a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those whose names had appeared or might have appeared.
Now, a settlement has been struck between the plaintiffs and the city in which Philadelphia will pay nearly $1.5 million to about 3,000 individuals.
But attorney Joshua Prince, representing the plaintiffs, said more importantly, the city agrees to broader policy changes related to guns.
For example, police will not confiscate a gun or “carry” license unless there’s probable cause that it is evidence of a crime, and will now give receipts to gun owners when a gun confiscated.
“The reason that is so important is that we have been seeing a number of cases where officers will simply confiscate either the license to carry or a firearm, never charge the individual, and never provide any type of property receipt,” Prince says.
Under the settlement the city also agrees to:
- process license to carry applications within 45 calendar days rather than 45 “business” days;
- refund $15 of the application fee to those who are denied, as required by state law;
- provide better training to city workers as to the confidentiality of firearm application information.
The attorney for the city, Craig Straw, downplayed the changes.
“A lot of those terms are things that we had no problem agreeing to, because they were things that we were already doing, or the law says we should be doing. That’s what the law is: we’re not going to take somebody’s gun unless we have probable cause that a crime is being committed. And the police department did not have any problem with making them terms of this,” Straw said.
Prince, the plaintiffs’ attorney, says, going forward, the settlement will make it easier for Philadelphia gun owners who believe their rights have been violated to take on the city.
“Individuals generally don’t have the money to be able to fight City Hall,” he said today, “so by wrapping all of these issues up into this one settlement, no one individual has to litigate City Hall into ensuring compliance. If they fail to comply, we can go in and file for contempt of court.”
The city admits to no wrongdoing in the settlement.
The deal is subject to approval by a Common Pleas Court judge, but both attorneys were optimistic that would be granted.