Pennsylvania Gun Laws

Gun Laws in Pennsylvania

Certain states are known for their hunting preserves and have what are considered by many to be “friendly gun laws.” Other states have residents who trade and collect a vast array of antique firearms. Often these antique firearms are used in reenactments for famous Civil War or Revolutionary battles.

Pennsylvania Laws

Pennsylvania is a state which embraces both of those gun enthusiast types and has adapted their state gun laws accordingly. For the record, an antique firearm is considered to be any gun manufactured before 1898 that uses a matchlock, flintlock or percussion cap firing system.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The centrally located state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east. Open carry is legal in Pennsylvania with a valid license to carry, except in Philadelphia.

Gun Possession Laws in Pennsylvania

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania you do not need a license to own a rifle, shotgun or handgun and keep it in your home or business. If you are under the age of 18 you are not permitted to possess a handgun unless you are being supervised by your parent or guardian and directly involved with any type of sport shooting or training course.

You are not allowed to possess any type of firearm if you are a convicted felon or a fugitive from the law. If you have been convicted of a controlled substance offense within the prior two years you are also not allowed to own a firearm. The same restrictions apply to anyone who is an illegal alien, or was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

If you do own any type of firearm but have a protection from abuse court order issued against you then you are required to surrender your firearm. Failure to do so can result in being charged and convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a five year jail sentence and $10,000 fine.

Concealed Gun Carry Laws in Pennsylvania

In order to carry any type of handgun in your car or truck or to carry that same concealed weapon you need to either obtain a license to carry or a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit. The Sportsman’s Firearm Permit only applies to firearms used for hunting and trapping such as rifles and shotguns. The fee for the license to carry is $6 while the Sportsman’s Firearm Permit is $19.00

For a license to carry permit you need to apply to the chief of police in Philadelphia or the sheriff in the county where you live.

Among the reasons for being denied a license to carry are if it is determined that you might “act in a dangerous manner”, if you have problem with alcohol or drugs, if you’re found to be of unsound mind or were dishonorably discharged from any branch of the military. If you obtain the license, you are required to show it to any law enforcement officer who asks to see that.

Just because you have a license to carry or even a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit doesn’t mean you can still carry a loaded rifle or shotgun in your car. That’s still against the law in Pennsylvania. It’s also against the law to carry any handgun on public streets or at public facilities unless you have the proper license. You’re also restricted from carrying any firearm onto the grounds of a school unless it is being use specifically for teaching or training purposes.

Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

Pennsylvania generally prohibits carrying firearms in vehicles without a permit. Carrying a loaded long gun is illegal. People without permits may only carry firearms in their vehicle if they are unloaded, and they are transporting it to or from: the place of purchase or repair, a shooting range, or hunting activities.

Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes, if you possess a valid concealed handgun license. Places like Fridays or Chili’s unless they have a “No Gun Sign,” then it is suggested that You not carry into the establishment. This does not include a bar or the bar area of a restaurant – You are prohibited from carrying into these areas. You can carry Your firearm into a restaurant that serves alcohol, but You are prohibited from carrying while You consume alcohol or are under the influence of alcohol.

Pennsylvania Self-defense Laws

Pennsylvania has a Castle Doctrine but no SYG law. There is no duty to retreat when in Your dwelling. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, the commission of a forcible felony, or if necessary to protect Your dwelling, place of business, or occupied motor home from arson, burglary, robbery, or other forcible felonies.

Open Carry (Without a Valid Permit/License)

Open carry is legal, except a valid permit/license is needed to carry a loaded handgun openly or concealed in a vehicle and for openly carrying in the city of Philadelphia. Places as listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above apply to those who open carry. Philadelphia has laws/ordinances concerning open carry and only those with a valid permit/license to carry can open carry in Philadelphia. The minimum age to open carry is 18.

Universal Background Checks

Pennsylvania requires that every sale of a handgun go through an FFL to conduct a background check.

Reciprocal Carry

By statute, Pennsylvania will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes Pennsylvania’s license:

“The Attorney General shall have the power and duty to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states providing for the mutual recognition of a license to carry a firearm issued by the Commonwealth and a license or permit to carry a firearm issued by the other state.”

Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Pennsylvania AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur.

Criminal Provisions

Under Pennsylvania law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances, whether it is issued by Pennsylvania, or a person is carrying pursuant to a reciprocity agreement between his or her state of license and Pennsylvania:

  • When carrying a firearm concealed on one’s person or in a vehicle pursuant to a license to carry, upon lawful demand of a law enforcement officer, one must produce the license for inspection
  • Some cities have passed ordinances that restricts carrying of firearms within City Parks be sure to check the ordinances of the City which You plan to be in ahead of time, although carry in State Parks by licensees is permitted
  • Mental hospitals
  • Casinos
  • Court houses
  • On school property

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