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Pennsylvania gun laws

Published January 14. 2013 05:06PM

Many Pennsylvanians don't fully understand gun laws or their rights to own them. Below are a few important laws pertaining to firearms in Pennsylvania.

How do you obtain a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms (LTCF)?

The process for obtaining a LTCF in Pennsylvania makes sure that permits are not granted to people that may be irresponsible or pose a danger to others (minors, convicted felons, domestic abusers, etc.) while making it very simple for trustworthy, law-abiding people to obtain one quickly and cheaply.

Pennsylvania LTCF's are available to both residents and non-residents and are valid for 5 years. For residents, the applications are handled by their county sheriff's office, with the exception of Philadelphia where they are handled by the Gun Permits & Tracking Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department.

It should be noted that permits issued by one county must be honored by all counties including Philadelphia, regardless of rumors to the contrary.

The actual application process itself consists of acquiring an application, and a passport-sized photo, filling it out, paying the fee (which can vary from county to county) and submitting it.

In some counties (such as Philadelphia), the application must be submitted in person and they may do a quick and basic interview.

Once the application is received the entity responsible for handling it will do a background check on you and generally verify who you are. They may contact the references you have provided on the application although many times it will not be necessary. Pennsylvania is a "shall-issue" state in regards to LTCF's, meaning the entity processing your application is required to approve it unless they can prove you are disqualified based on the law.

This is very important to prevent localities from simply denying people based on political, or prejudicial biases.

Additionally, by state law, the application must be approved or denied within 45 business days.

Again, this is done to prevent localities from claiming they issue permits, but never actually processing them for political or prejudicial reasons.

Do I have to register my firearm in PA?

No, in Pennsylvania, it is actually illegal for any government or police agency to keep a registry of firearms per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 (Registration of firearms). If you legally bring your firearms into the Pennsylvania or come into possession of the firearms legally, no further action is required.

It should be noted however that all transfers of handguns in Pennsylvania are required to go through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) and as such the Pennsylvania State Police keep a "Sales Database" of all handguns purchased within the commonwealth. While almost any casual observer can see that this database clearly violates the spirit of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 (Registration of firearms), in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Pennsylvania State Police that because the database is not a complete record of all handgun ownership (as people bringing handguns into the state do not have to register them), it does not.

Do I need a license to openly carry a firearm in Pennsylvania?

While Pennsylvania has a specific law that requires a License To Carry Firearms for the concealed carry of a firearm, and the carry of firearms in vehicles, the law is silent on the legality of openly carrying a firearm in other situations, making it de-facto legal. There is however a law that requires a License To Carry Firearms to carry either way in "cities of the first class", which as defined by law is only the city of Philadelphia.

Do I need a license to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a License To Carry Firearms is required to conceal a firearm, or to carry a firearm in a motor vehicle.

How old must one be to possess a firearm in PA?

Per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6110.1 (Possession of firearm by minor), the minimum age to possess a firearm is 18 with two exceptions:

1. The minor is under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or an adult acting with the expressed consent of the minor's parent or legal guardian and involved in lawful activity.

2. The minor is lawfully involved in hunting or trapping activities.

An individual who is 21 years of age or older may apply for a license to carry firearms by submitting a completed Application for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms to the sheriff of the county along with the required fee.

Can I carry a firearm for employment?

Carrying a firearm for the purpose of employment, such as an armored car driver, armed security and other similar jobs is regulated completely separate from regular concealed carry. In fact having a concealed carry permit does not allow you to carry a firearm for employment purposes and having passed ACT235 does not allow you to carry a firearm while not working.

Can I carry my firearm between states?

States that currently recognize Pennsylvania permits are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

States Pennsylvania recognizes permits from include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Can I own an automatic or semi-automatic gun?

PA law WILL permit possession of fully automatic firearm by a private citizen, so long as that person is in compliance with the National Firearms Act. The NFA is the Federal law governing "Class III" weapons- among other things, it requires that full autos be registered with the BATFE, and a transfer tax paid, and that only full autos already registered by May 1986 can be transferred.

For a more detailed list of Pennsylvania gun laws, go to Keep in mind, guns laws change regularly, for up to date laws, go to or contact your county's sheriff office.

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