Pennsylvania Gun Laws

Pennsylvania Gun Laws

Pennsylvania Gun Laws are based on the Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution which reads, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”

In general, the rules and regulations of Pennsylvania Gun Laws are similar to the majority of states in the US. A permit to purchase, registration of firearms and licensing of owners are not required by the State’s gun laws. However, a permit to carry should be in possession of a person who wishes to keep a handgun while in public places which are allowed by law.

Validity of Permits Issued Under Pennsylvania Gun Laws in Other Jurisdictions

Currently, there are 30 states that honor permits issued under Pennsylvania Gun Laws, these are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. Colorado
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Idaho
  9. Indiana
  10. Iowa
  11. Kansas
  12. Kentucky
  13. Louisiana
  14. Maine
  15. Michigan
  16. Missouri
  17. Montana
  18. New Hampshire
  19. North Carolina
  20. North Dakota
  21. Oklahoma
  22. South Dakota
  23. Tennessee
  24. Texas
  25. Utah
  26. Vermont
  27. Virginia
  28. West Virginia
  29. Wisconsin
  30. Wyoming

On the other hand, only permits issued from these 28 states are recognized by Pennsylvania Gun Laws:

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Colorado
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Idaho
  8. Indiana
  9. Iowa
  10. Kansas
  11. Kentucky
  12. Louisiana
  13. Maine
  14. Michigan
  15. Missouri
  16. Montana
  17. New Hampshire
  18. North Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Oklahoma
  21. South Dakota
  22. Tennessee
  23. Texas
  24. Utah
  25. Virginia
  26. West Virginia
  27. Wisconsin
  28. Wyoming

Definition of Firearm Under Pennsylvania Gun Laws

Before proceeding to the key section of this article, it is important to understand first the definition of a “firearm” under Pennsylvania Gun Laws.

Based on the definition set forth by the State of Pennsylvania, a “firearm” is any pistol or revolver with a barrel that measures less than 15 inches. Any shotgun that has a barrel length of less than 18 inches, rifle with less than 16 inches barrel length, or a gun that has an overall length of less than 26 inches.

It should be noted though that some sections of the law has a broader definition for “firearms”which encompasses handguns, rifles and shotguns. If that is the case, the broad definition only applies to the section where it is used. So, when interpreting the statutes, it is important to note the distinction.

Key Provisions of Pennsylvania Gun Laws

In addition to the ones presented above, here is a brief discussion about the other main requirements and restrictions provided by Pennsylvania Gun Laws:

1. A licensed gun dealer is only allowed to sell or transfer a handgun while in his place of business or through the office of the county sheriff in the location of the person buying or acquiring the firearm.

2. An instant background check must be conducted prior to the transfer of a handgun, rifle or shotgun.

3. The person acquiring a handgun is required to sign the transfer application or record of sale.

4. A person is not required to sign a transfer application when the change in ownership is only within spouses, between a parent and a child, or between a grandparent and a grandchild. Law enforcement officials also do not need a transfer application when giving a gun to another law enforcement official. Rifles, shotguns or antique firearms are not covered by this requirement too.

5. A seller is not allowed to turn over a firearm with no locking mechanism to a buyer. An exemption to this is a transfer to a law enforcement officer by a dealer.

6. Transferring, giving or lending a handgun to another person is prohibited if the conditions provided in the previous items are not met unless the person is engaged in lawful hunting, participating in a firearm safety course or training, a member of a state-authorized competition involving handguns, or the loan or giving of a handgun is only within the acquirer’s dwelling place or business establishment.

7. A person below 18 years of age is only allowed to carry a handgun if he is under the direct supervision of a competent and responsible adult above 21 years old.

8. Lawfully purchasing a rifle or shotgun in the states contiguous to Pennsylvania is permitted.

9. In addition to the previous items, a person is barred from possessing a firearm if he possessess any of the following disqualifying factors:

  • Conviction of a crime of violence.
  • He is a fugitive from law.
  • He is a controlled substance offender with a punishment of more than two years.
  • He is psychologically impaired or committed to a mental institution.
  • Adjudicated as delinquent for an offense that would disqualify one from possessing firearm if committed by an adult.
  • The individual is an illegal alien.

10. Carrying a firearm to school is prohibited unless the person in possession is participating in a school-sanctioned activitity involving a firearm.

11. It is unlawful to carry a firearm inside a court facility. A person who lawfully possesses a firearm is required to check it in to the authorized court personnel. This exempts law enforcement officials and persons authorized by the court to carry firearms.

12. Carrying a firearm in public without a license or without a valid reason for self defense is illegal. Again, this exempts law enforcement officials and government agency personnel who are sanctioned to carry firearms in public.

13. A license to carry should be in possession of a person who is keeping a firearm in his vehicle or has a firearm concealed within him. Exemptions from this requirement are the following individuals:

  • A person who engages in lawful hunting, fishing, trapping or dog training, provided that he has a Sportman’s Firearm Permit.
  • Engaged in target shooting
  • Possessing a firearm in his dwelling place or fixed place of business.
  • Law enforcement officials or officials duly authorized by federal laws.
  • Transporting a firearm to and from the home to a gun repair establishment, another property, or the place where a person is allowed by law to retrieve or surrender his firearm.

14. When transporting a firearm, it should be unloaded, stored in a safe container and the ammunition must be kept in a separate storage case.

15. When transporting a rifle or a shotgun, it must be unloaded.

16. A license-holder must be able to show his license upon the demand of a law enforcement official during inspections.

17. Unless in compliance to the requirements of the National Firearms Act, carrying a machine gun, suppressor, short-barrelled shotgun or short barrelled rifle is prohibited.

18. Possessing a firearm with altered, destroyed or unrecognizable markings is illegal. This does not apply to antique firearms though.

License to Carry Requirements

To be eligible for a license to carry, a person must fulfill the following conditions:

1. He must be of good moral character and not a threat to public safety.

2. Does not possess any of the disqualifying factors stated in the preceding section.

3. Not dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces.

4. Must be able to completely fill up all the forms, submit the additional documents and pay the fees required by the sheriff in the county or chief of police in the city where the applicant resides.


Pennsylvania Gun Laws reserve the regulation of firearms and ammunition to the State Legislature.

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