FPC Lawsuit Results in Win for Second Amendment Rights, 1.2 Million Allegheny County Residents

Gun News

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 17, 2021) — Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) is pleased to announced that it has resolved its Cowey v. Mullen right-to-carry lawsuit filed less than three months ago with a binding settlement agreement resulting in permanent, positive changes to the carry licensing policies of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and its Sheriff’s Office. More information about the lawsuit can be found at PAcarrycase.com.

Under State law, because of gubernatorial declarations of emergency, a license is required to carry a firearm in public. In late November, Allegheny County Sheriff William P. Mullen, the County of Allegheny, and the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) closed their Firearms Division, which accepts, processes, and issues licenses to carry firearms, completely preventing anyone not licensed from exercising their Second Amendment rights outside their home. FPC Law, FPC’s legal action arm, took immediate action to prepare and file the lawsuit, which challenged the de facto ban.

“We are delighted that this lawsuit and settlement has protected the fundamental right to bear arms for over one million individuals in Allegheny County, one of the nation’s largest counties, and safeguarded it against future abuses,” said Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy. “This settlement agreement not only ensures that people will be able to access their rights during times of crisis, it will allow them to do so without having to suffer further burdens which have no basis in the law.”

Under the settlement agreement, the ACSO has agreed to ensure that the carry license process remains open and accessible to people even if their public services office is closed due to COVID or other circumstances, implement an alternative, email-based application system in the event of any closure, and announce the availability of alternative application methods through their social media platforms and website.

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Additionally, the ACSO has agreed to issue licenses to anyone who meets the State’s statutory requirement of passing the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) background check, and that they will not require burdensome processes such as in-person interviews, fingerprinting, personal or character references, or additional documentation unless legally required to do so by the enactment of a future law or intervening regulation or binding appellate court opinion. 

Moreover, the ACSO will provide training to its employees with regard to the procedures and protections of individuals found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109, as well as the confidentiality of carry license applicant and licensee information.

Pursuant to the settlement agreement entered into between the parties, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania will retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement should a violation occur. 

FPC is currently suing other state and local governments in challenges to their laws and policies restricting the right to carry, and preparing dozens of additional cases to be filed this year. For more information about FPC’s litigation program and efforts to restore the Second Amendment throughout the United States, please visit FPCLaw.org

Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates leading the Second Amendment litigation and research space, having recently filed two United States Supreme Court petitions for certiorari (review) (Folajtar v. Attorney General and Holloway v. Attorney General) and several major federal Second Amendment lawsuits, including challenges to the State of Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh), Philadelphia’s Gun Permit Unit policies and practices (Fetsurka v. Outlaw), Pennsylvania’s ban on carry by adults under 21 years of age (Lara v. Evanchick), California’s Handgun Ban and “Roster” laws (Renna v. Becerra), Maryland’s carry ban (Call v. Jones), New Jersey’s carry ban (Bennett v. Davis), New York City’s carry ban (Greco v. New York City), the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition by federal firearm licensees (FFLs) to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. BATFE), and others, with many more cases being prepared today. To follow these and other legal cases FPC is actively working on, visit the Legal Action section of FPC’s website or follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom through litigation and legal action, legislative and regulatory action, education, outreach, grassroots activism, other programs. FPC Law is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on Second Amendment and adjacent fundamental rights including freedom of speech and due process, conducting litigation, research, scholarly publications, and amicus briefing, among other efforts.

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