Philadelphia firearm license applications see nearly 600% increase: report

Nearly 70K Philadelphians applied for gun licenses in 2021, compared to an average of 11K per year between 2017-2020

Firearm license applications in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have increased by nearly 600% since 2020, according to a new report.

Between 2017 and 2020, Philadelphia recorded between 11,049 and 11,814 firearm licensure applications each year. That changed in 2021, when nearly 70,800 Philadelphians applied for licenses to legally carry guns, as Philadelphia Magazine first reported.

"If you were to relay the math, you would see that that corresponds … in a consistent manner to the rise in violent crime, especially violent gun crime and gun-related crimes in Philadelphia," John Sullivan, a former Philadelphia police officer, told Fox News Digital. "I'm sure part of that is also related to COVID — increasing gun sales during that period. But that trend continues."

Police officers carrying assault rifles respond to a shooting on August 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Police officers carrying assault rifles respond to a shooting on August 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The unusually high number of firearm license applications submitted last year came as Philadelphia saw a record increase in homicides last year. By the end of 2021, Philadelphia recorded a total of 562 homicide victims, compared to 499 in 2020 and 356 in 2019.

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The Philadelphia Police Department (PD) has recorded 103 homicides so far in 2022 as of March 20 — a 3% decrease compared to the 107 homicides recorded during the same time period last year.

Sullivan believes the "dysfunctional" criminal justice system in Philadelphia "is either unable or unwilling to help people," and therefore, people "have taken extraordinary steps" to protect themselves.

Police tape blocks a street where a person was recently shot in a drug related event in Kensington on July 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Police tape blocks a street where a person was recently shot in a drug related event in Kensington on July 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

He also pointed to issues plaguing the Philadelphia PD, including difficulty recruiting new officers and retaining veterans, who are retiring early or moving outside the city to continue police work; a city ordinance making requiring new Philadelphia recruits to be residents of the city for at least a year; and budgetary changes combined with staffing shortages and rising crime.

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"All of those things together have certainly had a negative impact on the department and its ability to do proactive policing," he said. "They're doing more with less than they've ever had."

Meanwhile, armed robberies and commercial burglaries are up nearly 50% each compared to last year. Auto theft is up more than 30%.

A police officer monitors activity in front of a boarded up bank and a mural of stated literary devices after looting on Oct. 30, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

A police officer monitors activity in front of a boarded up bank and a mural of stated literary devices after looting on Oct. 30, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

"The perception of crime in Philadelphia from the people that I've talked to is greatly increased," Sullivan said. "They see a lack of enforcement of quality-of-life issues," which will eventually impact Philadelphia tourism and entertainment attractions.

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The former Philadelphia officer noted discontent with progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who has been pushing for extensive criminal justice reform. The city's prison population has decreased by nearly 30%, and he has prosecuted fewer cases than former Philadelphia district attorneys. Meanwhile, Krasner previously dismissed claims that Philadelphia is experiencing an abnormal violent crime wave.

"Obviously, nothing has changed" over the past year, he said. "The sad part is … this has the greatest impact on people who are poor and the minority communities of Philadelphia. The poor and people of color in Philadelphia are impacted by violent crime at an unacceptable rate. And so it's time to go in a different direction. These things aren't working. … You come up with a new plan or you make adjustments, but it doesn't seem like there's a willingness to do that."

Fox News' Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.