Gun laws in Pennsylvania

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Gun laws in Pennsylvania regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States.[1][2][3]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant statutes Notes
State permit to purchase? No No
Firearm registration? No No* (18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4) All handgun buyers in the state must undergo a PICS check at the point of sale, a record of which is maintained by the state police in a "sales database". The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that this is legal under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4, as it is not a comprehensive record of all handgun ownership within the state, as gun owners moving into the state are not required to register their firearms.
Assault weapon law? No No
Owner license required? No No
Carry permits required? Yes* Yes* 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109 License to Carry Firearms issued on a "shall-issue" basis. *A LTCF is required to carry a firearm within a City of the First Class (Philadelphia), in a vehicle, concealed on one's person, or during a declared state of emergency.
Open carry? Yes Yes Unlicensed open-carry everywhere except Philadelphia or in/on a vehicle.
Castle Law/Stand Your Ground? Yes Yes [1] Castle Law. No duty to retreat inside castle. No duty to retreat outside castle if confronted with a deadly weapon or an object that appears to be one in a place where the person has a right to be.
State preemption of local restrictions? Yes Yes 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120
NFA weapons restricted? No No
Peaceable Journey laws? Yes Yes [2] Non-residents may carry in a vehicle if in possession of a valid carry permit from any state. Otherwise, federal rules observed.
Background checks required for private sales? No Yes All private party transfers of handguns must be processed through a licensed dealer, or at a county sheriff's office. In either case a background check is required.
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States

The Constitution of Pennsylvania protects the right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state.[4]

Pennsylvania has state preemption for regulation of the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or ammunition components. That is, only state laws, not local laws, can regulate those matters.[1][2]

Pennsylvania law requires that information received by the Pennsylvania State Police pursuant to a sale is destroyed within 72 hours of the completion of the background check.[1][2] The Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association notes that the Pennsylvania State Police nonetheless keep a "sales database" of all handguns purchased within the state.[5] The database was challenged based on what was asserted as the unambiguous text of the statute, specifically "nothing... ...shall be construed to allow any government or law enforcement agency or any agent thereof to create, maintain or operate any registry of firearm ownership within this Commonwealth" (full statute text above), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court nonetheless ruled in Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League v. Rendell, 860 A.2d 10 (Pa. 2004), that Pennsylvania’s database of handgun sales is not prohibited by state law because the registration was only of handgun sales and not of all guns.[6]

No firearms are known to be prohibited by state law. Private sales of handguns must go through a licensed dealer, though long guns may be sold privately without the use of a licensed dealer. Licensed dealers must provide locking devices with handguns unless the handgun has a locking device incorporated in its design. Firearms are prohibited from certain places, including federal court facilities; all other court facilities must provide a locker to secure your firearm while conducting business within the court facility as per 18 Pa.C.S 913 (e). Concealed carry on school property used to be an unsettled area of the law with many in law enforcement arguing that the practice is absolutely prohibited and firearms right supporters arguing that 18 Pa.C.S. 912(c) permits those who have a concealed carry license to carry on school grounds as an "other lawful purpose." On February 16, 2017, the Superior Court ruled in the case of Commonwealth v. Goslin that the "other lawful purpose" clause is a valid defense for people who are otherwise carrying a weapon legally on school grounds regardless of any connection to a school activity.[7][8] Carrying a handgun on public streets and public property of Philadelphia, or in a vehicle anywhere in the state, or concealed on or about one's person anywhere in the state is prohibited without a "License To Carry Firearms" (LTCF) or a license or permit issued by another state which is honored by Pennsylvania for that purpose.[1][2] A LTCF is generally not required to openly carry a firearm on or about one's person, except in a vehicle or in Philadelphia, or during a declared State of Emergency.[9] A bill proposed in September 2014 would allow teachers and school employees carry guns.[10]

Pennsylvania shall issue a LTCF to resident and non-resident applicants if no good cause exists to deny the license. Non-resident applicants must first obtain a license from their home state, unless their home state does not issue licenses.[1][2]

Pennsylvania recognizes carry permits from some other states by statute and has formal reciprocity with some others for resident and non-resident permits. However, some agreements have been modified by the Attorney General to extend reciprocity to residents of the state of issue only. Florida, Arizona and Virginia have had their agreements modified in this manner.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Pennsylvania State Law Summary", Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e "State Gun Laws: Pennsylvania", National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  3. ^ "Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms" (PDF). Retrieved January 2, 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Pennsylvania Firearm/Gun Law". 2007-10-02. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  6. ^ "LCAV. Registration of Firearms. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State, and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 8, 2011." (PDF). Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  7. ^ Prince, Joshua; Esq. (2017-02-16). "The Goslin Decision’s Impact on Possessing Weapons on School Property". Prince Law Offices, P.C. Retrieved 2017-06-30. 
  8. ^ "Commonwealth v. Goslin" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association – Open Carry". 2007-10-02. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  10. ^ Gautz, Chris. "Response mixed on bill to let teachers carry guns". The Daily Item.