Onorato takes shot at Corbett over gun-permit loophole

Onorato (left) and Williams
Onorato (left) and Williams
Posted: June 19, 2010

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato lashed out at state Attorney General Tom Corbett yesterday for failing to close the "Florida loophole" that allows that state's Department of Agriculture to issue permits to carry concealed weapons by mail for Pennsylvanians who have been denied that privilege locally.

Onorato, a Democrat who will face Corbett in the Nov. 2 general election for governor, said the Republican attorney general could close the loophole by citing the difference between the regulations for permits in the two states.

Applicants for Florida permits must pass a background check. Applicants in Pennsylvania must be approved by their county sheriff's office - in Philadelphia, it's the Police Department - which does a similar check but also considers "character and reputation."

"Tom is actually in the position to deal with this issue right now," Onorato said in a City Hall news conference with District Attorney Seth Williams and state Rep. Bryan Lentz of Delaware County.

Onorato noted that 175 mayors from across the state have asked Corbett to act on the loophole.

"They have not heard from the attorney general," Onorato said. "The reason is he doesn't want to deal with this issue."

Corbett's campaign yesterday ridiculed the issue as "a solution in search of a problem."

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Onorato and his allies can't point to a single incident of serious crime linked to a permit from Florida. Harley said the real problem is illegal handguns, which Corbett has targeted for several years with the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force.

"The problem in Philadelphia is not people who have a Florida carry permit," Harley said. "The problem in Philadelphia is people who illegally obtain weapons."

Not to hear Williams and Lentz tell it yesterday with Onorato.

Williams denounced the loophole as a "disgusting affront" to this state's sovereignty.

Lentz introduced legislation last month to close the loophole and hopes the state House Judiciary Committee will consider it for a vote next week, though he conceded he doesn't have the votes to move the bill forward.

Lentz dished out some statistics to knock down complaints that people in Pennsylvania have a difficult time obtaining permits to carry concealed weapons.

He said 5,000 such permits were issued in 2009 based on 5,500 applications. In 2008, 5,900 permits were issued based on 6,200 applications.

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