Pennsylvania: State Firearms Laws (As of May 1995)
Please Note: In addition to state laws, the purchase, sale
and (in certain circumstances) the possession and interstate transportation
of firearms is regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended by
the Firearm Owners' Protection Act. Also, cities and localities may have
their own firearms ordinances in addition to federal and state laws. Details
may be obtained by contacting local law enforcement authorities, and by
consulting the State Laws and Published Ordinances--Firearms,
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.
Quick Reference Chart
Permit to Purchase No No
Registration of Firearms No No
Licensing of Owner No No
Permit to Carry No* Yes
* Pennsylvania law defines "firearm" as any pistol or
revolver with a barrel of less than 15 inches, any
shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, or any
rifle with a barrel of less than 16 inches.
State Constitutional Provision
"The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of
themselves and the State shall not be questioned." Article
1, Section 21.
No license is required to possess rifles and shotguns,
or to possess handguns kept in one's home or place of
business. It is unlawful for any person convicted of a crime
of violence (murder, rape, assault, burglary, etc.) to own
or possess a handgun.
Any "seller" (the term "seller" includes private individuals
as well as dealers) of a handgun is required to wait 48 hours
from the time of application for purchase before delivering
the handgun to the buyer.
The buyer must sign an application for the purchase of
a handgun, which contains his name, address, a description
of the buyer, and a description of the handgun to be
The seller must send copies of this application to the
state police and to the local police of both the buyer's
residence as well as the seller's residence. The seller must
also keep one copy for six years.
No seller may deliver a handgun to any person under the
age of 18, or to a person who he has reasonable cause to
believe has been convicted of a crime of violence, or to a
drug addict, an habitual drunkard, or a person of unsound
Any person carrying a firearm "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 and fishing).
Exceptions: No license is required:
The Sportsman's Firearm Permit is valid only for
sporting purposes and does not authorize the carrying of a
loaded handgun in a vehicle. 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, but must be carried with a valid
hunting or fishing license.
- to carry a firearm in one's home or fixed place of business.
- when engaged in target shooting or while going to or from their
places of assembly or target practice, so long as the firearm is
unloaded and the ammunition is carried in a separate container.
- for law enforcement personnel, including: policemen, jail wardens,
sheriffs and their deputies.
- to carry an unloaded and 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."
- to carry while 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.
Application for a license to carry may be made to the
chief of police, in a city of the first class, or county
sheriff where the applicant resides.
The license is valid for five years from the date of
issuance unless sooner revoked for good cause. The license
fee is $12.50.
The issuing officer shall, within 45 days, issue the
license unless good cause exists to deny. Denial may be
based upon any of twelve factors, to include (but not
Further, in cities of the first class, the applicant
must have good reason to fear an injury to person or
property before the licensed is issued.
- presenting a danger to public safety.
- having been charged with or convicted of certain crimes.
- being an habitual drunkard or abuser of controlled substances.
- being of unsound mind or having been committed to a mental institution.
- dishonorable discharged from the Armed Forces.
The license to carry must be produced when so demanded
by a law enforcement officer.
A license revocation must be sent by certified mail and
must list the reasons for the revocation.
No person shall carry any firearm in a city of the
first class upon public streets or public property unless
such person is licensed to carry a firearm or is exempt from
licensing (see exceptions under "Carry").
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
While transporting a firearm without a license, it is
up to the person carrying the firearm to demonstrate that
one of the exceptions under "Carry" applies. A law
enforcement officer may demand such evidence of an
Non-residents must conform to Pennsylvania law.
Out-of-state licenses and permits generally are not honored.
"Antique firearm" means:
Antique and replica handguns cannot be carried without
a license or possessed by convicted felons.
- Any firearm, including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock,
percussion cap or similar type of ignition system, manufactured
in or before 1898, and
- Any replica of any firearm described in paragraph (1) if such replica:
- is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or
conventional centerfire fixed ammunition; or
- Uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed
ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United
States and which is not readily available in the ordinary
channels of commercial trade.
"It is a defense under this section for the defendant
to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he possessed or
dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic
performance, or that, with the exception of a bomb, grenade
or incendiary device, he complied with the National Firearms
Act (26 U.S.C. Sec. 5801 et seq.), or that he possessed it
briefly in consequence of having found it or taken it from
an aggressor, or under circumstances similarly negativing
any intent or likelihood that the weapon would be used
The state legislature has preempted the field of
firearms regulation: "No county, municipality or township
may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession
or transportation of firearms when carried or transported
for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this
It is unlawful to deface or alter the serial number or
other identifying marks on any firearm. Possession of any
firearm which has been so defaced or altered creates a legal
presumption that the possessor committed the offense.
Pennsylvania statutes relating to firearms are in the
Uniform Firearms Act, Title 18, sections 908, 6101-6124.
Caution: State firearms laws are subject to frequent change. The above
summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law. To
determine the applicability of these laws to specific situations which you
may encounter, you are strongly urged to consult a local attorney.
NRA Institute for Legislative Action
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
(c) 1995, NRA Institute for Legislative Action.
NS 01350 Rev. 5/95