A Pennsylvania Firearms Law Primer

A Pennsylvania Firearms Law Primer

By |2019-06-21T03:55:36+00:00Mar 13, 2019|Constitutional Law & Civil Rights|

Many of our clients have asked us about for an easy to read quick reference chart for the complex federal and state rules surrounding firearms.  Do I need a permit to purchase a firearm in Pennsylvania?  Are the rules different for handguns versus shotguns?  Does Pennsylvania require guns to be registered?  This simple guide provides answers and citations to sources for these common questions and many others.  While the chart itself isn’t legal advice, it’ll get you started in the right direction.  Please feel free to write with questions: jonathan@goldsteinlp.com

ACQUIRING A FIREARM AND AMMUNITION AND POSSESSING A FIREARM

Question of Law Explanation Citation
Permit required to purchase each firearm? No.
Permit required to purchase any firearm? No.
Permit required to purchase ammunition? No.
Minimum age to purchase a handgun from a dealer? 21 18 USC 922(b)
Minimum age to purchase a handgun from a non-dealer? 18 18 Pa.C.S. § 6110.1
Background check mandatory for purchase of handgun? Yes. At all times other than 1) lineal family or spousal gift, 2) inheritance, 3) LEO purchasing a duty weapon or 4) licensed collectors of curios or relics. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(c)
Background check mandatory for purchase of long gun? Yes, if from dealer. No if from private party. All private parties have a legal duty not to sell to prohibited persons. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(c) and (f )(2) and 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(g)(2)
Prohibitions of particular classes of firearms? No, other than federal restriction on full auto in National Firearms Act of 1934.
Magazine capacity restrictions? No.
Roster of state-approved firearms? No.
Waiting period to take possession of firearm? No.
Lending a firearm? Lawful, if, inter alia, recipient has a license pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6115
Straw purchase illegal? Yes. A felony. 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6111(g)(4), also 18 Pa.C.S. § 6116

CARRYING A FIREARM

Question of Law Explanation Citation
Permit required for concealed carry of firearm? Yes. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109
Permit required for open carry of firearm? No, except Philadelphia. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6108
Permit required to carry a loaded or unloaded handgun in a vehicle? Yes. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109
Minimum age to purchase a handgun from a dealer? 21 18 USC 922(b)
Licensing uniform across Commonwealth? Yes. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109 and 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120
Minimum age to possess a firearm? 18, except younger if hunting or under direct parent/guardian supervision. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6110.1
Must inform police at police stop if armed? No. Must allow a requesting officer to inspect license to carry firearm if asked. 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6122

OTHER PROVISIONS

Question of Law Explanation Citation
State Constitutional provision protecting firearms rights? Yes. “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be ques- tioned.” Article 1, Section 21.
Statewide registry of firearms? No, however PSP have been permitted to create and keep a partial registry (a “sales database”) under Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League v. Rendell, 580 Pa. 149, 860 A.2d 10 (Pa. 2004). 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League v. Rendell, 580 Pa. 149, 860 A.2d 10 (Pa. 2004)
Permit required to carry a loaded or unloaded handgun in a vehicle? Yes. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109
Definition of “handgun” In a round about way, yes. “Firearm.” Any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches or any rifle with a barrel length less than
16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. The barrel length of a firearm shall be determined
by measuring from the muzzle of the barrel to
the face of the closed action, bolt or cylinder, whichever is applicable.
18 Pa.C.S. § 6102
Concealed carry on grounds of a school? Yes. 18 P.S. 912(c) “other lawful purpose” protected licensed concealed carry at schools unrelated to school activities. 18 P.S. 912(c) and Commonwealth v. Goslin, 2017 PA Super 38 (February 16, 2017).
Agencies allowed to regulate firearms? No. Some agencies don’t acknowledge this or believe they have a work around or additional authority permitting regulation of firearms. 18 Pa. C.S. 6109(m.3)(2)
Castle Doctrine (in home or business)/Stand YourGround Law (elsewhere)? Yes. To protect self, others or property, there is no longer a duty to retreat from a place where you have a right to be if the attacker has a visible weapon and you reasonably fear attacker will use deadly force or cause great bodily harm. 18 Pa.C.S. § 505, 506 and 507
Duty to Retreat? Yes, but only narrowly required and only if retreat can be accomplished in “absolute safety.” Not required to retreat when Castle Doctrine applies. Explained under 18 Pa.C.S. § 505, but functionally limited for law abiding behavior by 18 Pa.C.S. § 505(b)(2.3), 506 and 507.
Mandatory reporting of mental health event? Yes. Event must be reported to Pennsylvania State Police within seven days on form developed by Pennsylvania State Police. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.1(f)(2)

Jonathan S. Goldstein is a founding partner of Goldstein Law Partners. He concentrates his practice in the areas of Appellate Practice, Employment Law, Complex Dispute Resolution & Litigation, Constitutional Law & Civil Rights, Municipal Law and Land Use, Election Law, and Business Law.