Accused Phila. shooter whose gun permit was revoked got one from Florida

Posted: September 16, 2010

When police stripped Marqus Hill of his permit to carry a gun in Philadelphia after a 2005 confrontation with officers, Hill didn't let that stop him: He just applied for a firearms license from Florida.

Though police said Hill had lost a 2008 appeal to win back his Philadelphia permit and reacted by assaulting a police officer in court, Florida mailed him a gun license last year.

Early Sunday morning, police said, Hill, 28, gunned down an 18-year-old who allegedly broke into his car, shooting him 13 times.

Hill, of Hunting Park, was arrested Wednesday and charged with murdering Irving Santana. Police said he had caught Santana and two friends breaking into cars on the 300 block of East Gale Street.

The case highlights what police said was a loophole that allows nonresidents of three states - Florida, New Hampshire, and Utah - to obtain gun permits even if their home states have denied or revoked permits for them.

Florida's application can be filled out online, and the permit is sent via mail. Officials estimate that 3,000 to 4,000 people in Pennsylvania have obtained firearms permits from Florida.

"When we, Philadelphia, deny someone the privilege of carrying a handgun based on something in their background, they should not be able to carry a handgun," said Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn, who has testified in favor of a state House bill that would outlaw the practice. "We would like to be able to reserve the right to make those judgment calls."

The bill, proposed by State Rep. Bryan R. Lentz (D., Delaware), would prevent Pennsylvanians not eligible for a state gun permit from using permits issued by another state.

"This case really illustrates the problem," Lentz said. "This is the exact kind of person that the permitting process is supposed to prevent from having a gun."

Hill lost his Philadelphia-issued permit in 2005, after having what Blackburn described as "significant contact" with police.

Blackburn would not elaborate on what had happened between Hill and police, saying Hill's record had been expunged. Court records show Hill was charged with attempted murder, assault, and carrying a weapon without a license in 2005, though he was not convicted of any offenses.

In 2008, Hill appealed the revocation of his gun permit, which was upheld. He became so irate he was asked to leave the courtroom and then assaulted an officer, Blackburn said. The assault charge was later reduced to disorderly conduct.

In December 2009, Hill was granted a permit from Florida that expires in 2016, police said. Police have not found the handgun they believe was used in Sunday's shooting, but they recovered an assault rifle and a shotgun from Hill's home.

Florida firearms permits are issued by the state Department of Agriculture, which runs criminal background checks on applicants. Applicants must be at least 21 and submit a fingerprint via the mail. They must also demonstrate that they have some competency with firearms, said Terence McElroy, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFire PA, said Hill's case was the first he knew of in which a Pennsylvania shooting could be linked directly to a Florida permit.

"If you're a law-abiding citizen, you should be able to go back and forth with your weapon between states that allow that," he said. "It's not that we're trying to make this a political issue. It's a public-safety issue."


Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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