Common Firearm Offenses
In addition to the possible charges mentioned above, other offenses can land you under indictment.
Though Pennsylvania does not require the registration of firearms, it is still illegal for citizens to sell or give away their handguns, though rifles and shotguns are okay. Transfer of handguns must be done through a registered dealer. In addition, certain weapons such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns are illegal.
The theft of a gun or sale of a stolen gun is a felony and carries stiff penalties. Pennsylvania also places restrictions on where a firearm can be discharged. The use of armor-piercing ammunition for criminal activities is also prohibited.
What Qualifies as a Firearm in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act defines a "firearm" as "any pistol or revolver with a barrel less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, any rifle with a barrel of less than 16 inches or any pistol, revolver, rifle, or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches."
Several sections of the law include a broader definition that includes all firearms, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
Owning and Carrying a Firearm
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you must be 21 years of age to purchase a handgun but just 18 to purchase what is called a “long gun” (a rifle or shotgun). You must undergo a background check to purchase any handgun or long gun.
Other restrictions apply as well. You cannot have ever been convicted of a violent crime or declared mentally ill by a court. You must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident. You cannot have more than two DUIs within five years, nor be a drug addict or habitual drunkard. You also cannot be a fugitive from justice or under a protective order for abuse.
Pennsylvania law allows citizens to “open carry” firearms in public except in Philadelphia, but not to conceal them. For that, you need a concealed carry permit. To obtain such a permit, you must be 21 years of age and submit an application to the sheriff of the county in which you reside. You are, however, allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a permit if it’s in your own home or your place of business.
In addition to the five years that will be tacked onto your sentence for committing a violent crime if you are caught with a firearm, Pennsylvania enforces other strict penalties, including:
- Carrying a firearm with intent to commit a crime is a misdemeanor that can land you in prison for up to five years along with a fine of up to $10,000.
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
- Illegally providing a minor with a firearm is also a felony, with a penalty of up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.
- Possessing armor-piercing ammunition, another felony, warrants up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.
- Removing the identification numbers from a firearm is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.