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What are the Gun Laws in Pennsylvania?

A Synopsis of State Laws on Purchase, Possession and Carrying of Firearms



It is unlawful to possess any firearm on school property but it shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.

It is unlawful to carry a handgun, rifle or shotgun upon the public streets or upon any public property during an emergency proclaimed by a governmental executive unless the person carrying is actively engaged in lawful self defense, is licensed to carry firearms, or is exempt from licensing requirements.

It is unlawful to carry a handgun, rifle or shotgun upon the public streets or upon any public property in Philadelphia unless the person carrying is licensed to carry firearms or is exempt from licensing requirements.

Any person carrying a handgun in any vehicle or concealed on or about his person’ is required to have a license to carry or a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit (good only for hunting, fishing, trapping and dog training).

However, no license is required:

  1. To carry a handgun in one’s home or fixed place of business.

  2. When engaged in target shooting or while going to or from shooters’ places of assembly or target practice, provided the firearm is unloaded and the ammunition is carried in a separate container.

  3. For law enforcement personnel, including policemen, jail wardens, and sheriffs and their deputies.

  4. To carry an unloaded and securely wrapped firearm from place of purchase to one’s home or place of business, to or from a place of repair, or in moving from one place of abode or business to another, or from one’s home to a vacation or recreational home or dwelling or back, to recover stolen property, or to a location to which the person has been directed to surrender firearms or back upon return of the surrendered firearm.

  5. To carry while lawfully hunting or fishing or going to the place of hunting or fishing, provided one has a hunting or fishing license and a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit.

  6. While carrying a firearm in any vehicle when the person possesses a valid and lawfully issued license for that firearm which has been issued under the laws of the U.S. or any other state.
  7. By a person who has a lawfully issued license to carry a firearm and said license expired within six months prior to the date of arrest and that individual is otherwise eligible for renewal of that license.

  8. By any person who is otherwise eligible to possess a firearm and who is operating a motor vehicle which is registered in the person’s name or the name of a spouse or parent and which contains a firearm for which a valid license has been issued to the spouse or parent owning the firearm.
A Sportsman’s Firearm Permit is valid only for sporting purposes. It is obtained by applying to the county treasurer. The applicant must present his hunting or fishing license and pay a fee of $6.00. The permit is valid for five years. It must be carried with a valid hunting or fishing license.

Application for a license to carry may be made to the chief of police in a city of the first class (Philadelphia) or sheriff in the county where the applicant resides.

Non-residents may apply to any county sheriff but must first possess any applicable license required by their state of residence.

All information provided by the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant, including but not limited to, the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant’s name or identity, is confidential and not subject to public disclosure.

The license is valid for five years from the date of issuance unless sooner revoked for good cause.

The fee is $19.00.

The issuing officer shall, within 45 days, issue the license unless good cause exists to deny.

The state code lists several factors which preclude issuance of a license, including, but not limited to:

  • Being of a character and reputation that the applicant is likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.

  • Currently charged with or convicted of certain crimes.

  • Being a habitual drunkard or abuser of controlled substances.

  • Being of unsound mind or having been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

  • Having been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces.
When carrying a handgun, the licensee shall, upon demand of a law enforcement officer, produce the license for inspection.

A license to carry or a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit does not authorize carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle in any vehicle.

A Sportsman’s Firearm Permit does not authorize carrying a loaded handgun in a vehicle.

A weapon is “loaded” if there is ammunition capable of being fired in the firing chamber, any cylinder of a revolver, in a nondetachable magazine, or in a detachable magazine that is attached or in the same container or compartment as the firearm.

Transportation in a Vehicle

A handgun being transported in a vehicle without a license to carry must be unloaded and must be carried under one of the exceptions listed above under ‘Carry.’ Rifles and shotguns may be transported in a vehicle as long as they are unloaded.

While transporting a firearm without a license, it is up to the person carrying the firearm to demonstrate that one of the exceptions applies. A law enforcement officer may demand such evidence.

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