The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department has lost over 185 firearms, including 76 duty weapons, according to the Philadelphia Controller’s Office. The original number of service guns the controller found missing after a three-year investigation was 101.
Philadelphia holds the reputation of being the most anti-gun city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. City leaders have attempted to skirt the Commonwealth’s preemption laws by enacting anti-gun ordinances and have sued gun parts makers such as Polymer80 and JSD Supply. So how could a city that sees firearms as the ultimate evil lose so many guns? That is a question many are asking.
Of the missing service weapons, 71 are handguns, and five are shotguns. The Sheriff’s Office maintains that the Department properly disposed of all service weapons except for 20 items.
The Controller’s Office asserts that its follow-up investigation could confirm no evidence supporting that statement, and the Sheriff could provide no documentation as proof. The Controller’s Office still considers the firearms as missing.
“During the Fiscal Year 2024 budget hearing with City Council and in media releases on its website, the Sheriff’s Office stated that all but 20 of the original 101 missing service weapons had been found,” the Controller’s Office said. “To confirm those statements, the Acting Controller conducted a follow-up investigation. However, the Controller’s Office wasn’t provided with necessary documentation to support the claims, leaving the majority of the guns still considered missing.”
The Sheriff’s Department also claims it gave some guns to retired officers and former employees.
Pennsylvania implements universal background checks, and no evidence exists showing any of the guns underwent transfer via a federal firearms licensee (FFL) or that the recipient filled out an ATF Form 4473. This implies that the transferer never ran a check on the transferee through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The Sheriff’s Department stated that they gave one or more of the missing guns to former Sheriff John Green. The Controller’s Office demands that Green give back all the guns he received from the Department. They demand that employees return any guns given to them to the Department or that the employees provide proof of disposal. If the employees can not or refuse to produce the firearms or provide evidence of disposal, they should be placed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) as missing.
The remaining missing guns are from the Protection From Abuse inventory list. The PFA inventory consists of guns authorities have confiscated from individuals with protective orders against them. The Sheriff’s Department did not address these missing firearms or indicate where these missing guns have disappeared.
“The Sheriff’s Office made no mention regarding the status of the missing PFA weapons, at either their budget hearing or in their press releases,” the Controller’s Office said. “No supportive documentation has been provided to date that would change the status of the City Controller’s initial finding that the weapons are missing.”
Sheriff Rochelle Bilal claims that the Controller’s Office report is misleading. She claims the missing duty firearms are due solely to “recordkeeping” errors. She blamed the Controller’s Office for waiting so long to audit the Sheriff’s Department’s guns. They completed the last audit ten years ago. Many in the gun community take issue with the Sheriff’s excuse since FFLs do not get a pass because of the time between audits.
“Simply put, we cannot answer inconsistencies that derive as a result of that recordkeeping in the past,” Bilal said in a press conference Friday morning. “Maybe if (audits had been conducted previously), maybe (the armory) wouldn’t have been in that condition. And there would be no presumption of missing guns.”
The Sheriff’s Department referred AmmoLand News to the press conference when we asked for comments on the missing firearms.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist; he has written about firearms and interviewed people of all walks of life. Mr. Crump lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.