Pennsylvania Gun Laws Stricter Than Most Other States’

Since 2004, the Brady Center to Prevent of Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group, has issued an annual 100-point scorecard ranking states on how stringent their gun laws are. According to the Brady Center's most recent rating, Pennsylvania has the 10th most strict gun laws in the U.S. Pennsylvania residents should be aware of the laws regarding buying, owning and using guns in the state.

Purchasing Guns in Pennsylvania

In order to purchase a handgun in Pennsylvania, a person must pass a background check. He or she must show government-issued photo identification and fill out an application form. The gun dealer then calls the state police to check for criminal records. The state police search several databases, including federal ones, and inform the dealer of any issues that would prevent the sale. About 4 to 6 percent of applicants are denied. Police follow up with those who lie on applications to purchase firearms and in some cases police will go to gun shops and arrest people on the spot if they have outstanding warrants.

Restrictions on Owning and Buying Guns in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law prohibits some people from owning firearms, including:

  • Those with felony convictions
  • Those the court declares mentally incompetent
  • Illegal immigrants

A person may not purchase a firearm in Pennsylvania if he or she:

  • Has a felony conviction or is currently under indictment for a felony charge
  • Is a fugitive from justice
  • Has been ruled mentally incompetent or has been committed to a mental institution
  • Is addicted to controlled substances
  • Has a dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Is subject to a restraining order preventing contact with a partner or child
  • Has a conviction for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge
  • Has renounced U.S. citizenship
  • Immigrated to the U.S. without documentation

Restrictions on Gun Use in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania does not require a permit to carry a handgun, except in Philadelphia, as long as the carrier displays the gun openly. In order to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in Pennsylvania, carry a concealed or non-concealed handgun in Philadelphia or have a handgun in a vehicle, a person needs to have a License to Carry Firearms issued by the state.

Even if a person has a license, the law prohibits people from carrying guns in elementary or secondary schools and courthouses.

Talk to a Lawyer

Pennsylvania has strict gun laws, and authorities take weapons offenses very seriously. Penalties for conviction of a crime involving a gun are severe. If you are facing gun crime charges, seek the assistance of a veteran criminal defense attorney who can zealously advocate for your rights.