Philadelphia may ban bulletproof glass in delis

Today the Philadelphia city council may vote on a bill to ban bulletproof glass at hundreds of small delis. My New York Post take: are they crazy?

“Have you ever been served food at a sit-down restaurant establishment through a solid barrier? That is not acceptable.” There’s an “indignity” to it, she adds, and it happens “only in certain neighborhoods.” Hence : “No more normalization of receiving food or drink through a prison-like solitary confinement window. What message does it send our children? What are we conditioning them for?”

Well, it sends several messages.

One is a moral that echoes down through the ages: Human beings threatened with violence have the right to protect themselves.

Another is that no matter how many of your neighbors may be personally liked and trusted, it takes only a few bad actors for you to live in a rough neighborhood. Acting as if it isn’t — or that police will always arrive in time to stop an assault — is playing pretend.

Predictably, some of the store managers say if their glass comes down they will start carrying guns to defend themselves….

Some sources: Philadelphia Inquirer coverage and editorial; Councilwoman Cindy Bass on Twitter; Joe Trinacria/Philly Mag; local WTXF and more, WPVI; draft ordinance; local commentary by Christopher Norris (sends a “damning message”: “The presence of bulletproof glass in corner stores promotes the dehumanization and distrust of the poor, while centering the privilege of its erector.”)

Note also UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh’s argument that a right of self-defense may be implicit in the U.S. Constitution as an unenumerated right, as it is explicit under many state constitutions.


  • Does anyone know if the people who attended the council meeting had to go through metal detectors before entering the building? Never been to Philadelphia city hall but I have seen them at other government buildings.

  • The other option to carrying a firearm for self defense is to close the business and move away. This will create even more urban blight and poverty.

  • For many years, I have been annoyed by the bullet-resistant barriers in NY cabs. They’re ugly, dirty and make the space feel cramped. Whenever I have gotten a cab without one, I have made an effort to express my appreciation to the cabby. Yet I would never wish to outlaw them. If cabbies need them to feel a bit safer, then it is another sad artefact of the paranoia that our reporting and political classes have promoted.

    I haven’t visited the Philadelphia City Council while it’s in session. Judging by their concerns, I would guess I can wander in without any sort of security precautions being taken, or ring the doorbells of the council members who are proposing this bill and be ushered in immediately. What am I saying? Surely their doors are unlocked!


  • The “glass” is actually 1.25” thick acrylic plastic. And it isn’t quite bulletproof. High velocity 9mm rounds can penetrate these barriers.

    In the 1970s while living in the Detroit area I had a summer job at a company that made plenty of these windows. There wasn’t a bank, mom-n-pop convenience store, or liquor store in certain areas that didn’t have these windows…and for very good reason.

    The Philadelphia city council will be smart to not vote against acrylic windows in businesses. As an aside, I wonder if any of the Philadelphia city offices that accept cash will remove their bullet-resistant windows, if they are present.

    • There is a reality show called something like “Parking Wars”, where they showcase the public servants in Philadelphia writing tickets, booting cars, and towing cars for parking violations and expired permits/licenses. The scenes at the impound lot are shocking: indifference by the fine public servants, demand for large sums of cash for parking and licensing violations, and plenty of bulletproof glass, locked doors, and armed cops in abundance.
      Just the name of the show tells you everything you need to know.

  • Classic overreach. The City Council’s position is aesthetics and paternalism. The business owners’ position is safety and self-determinism. Which do you think will win?

    • Paternalism (aka in government: We Control the Vertical, We Control the Horizontal.)

  • I think this is the ultimate virtue signalling that I have ever seen. It costs the city council nothing, has a wildly adverse impact, but makes them feel good. There is already a problem with empty store fronts and high prices in the poor neighborhoods. I visited a large grocery in an iffy neighborhood and they had 2 full time cops 24 hours/day–image how much that costs! Small shops simply can’t do that, they must carry guns or close. People will die due to this rule.

  • Why do I suspect that the real purpose is to drive away regular businesses and replace them with Friends Of The Council?

    (g) Customer access. By no later than January 1, 2021, the Department of Licenses and Inspections shall promulgate regulations to provide for the use or removal of any physical barrier that requires the persons serving the food in any establishment required to obtain a Large Establishment license, as provided in subsection (4)(a)(.1), either to open a window or other aperture or to pass the food through a window or other aperture, in order to hand the food to a customer inside the establishment.

    That’s my own emphasis (bolding) in the quote, btw.

    Anyway, some establishments might be able to keep their protection but others would not. No potential for favoritism there.

    Oh, and 2021? Gosh, all the existing businesses might well have moved away by that date, in anticipation of the danger, and be already sold to Friends Of The Council, and the regulations could then be allowed to die quietly.

    [Lastly, and as an aside, an aperture to hand food to persons outside the restaurant would still be OK under the above wording, so, should this bill pass, we might expect to see customers inside having to go outside to get their food and bring it back inside to eat.]

  • The people who work in those delis have a right to a safe workplace. If the barriers are removed and someone gets shot/stabbed, can the injured party sue ppl on Philly Council?

  • I would think if without bulletproof glass were profitable, there would be more places without bulletproof glass. (One assumption: safety of workers impacts profitability).