In order to purchase a firearm from a vendor in Pennsylvania, individuals are required to undergo a background check and fill out an application, which consists of two forms: ATF Form 4473 and SP 4-113. The forms contain questions regarding an applicant's criminal history, mental health, and other factors that are relevant to assess a person's ability to act responsibly with a gun. Many people believe that by inattentively whizzing through the application, or by answering a question dishonestly, that the worst possible repercussion will be simply being denied access to a gun. But the consequences are much more dire.
Making a False Statement in Connection with the Purchase of a Firearm (18 PA.C.S. 6111(G)(4))
In Pennsylvania, a mistake on a gun application can lead to felony criminal charges. The state has made it illegal to knowingly and intentionally make a false statement in connection with the purchase of a firearm. Unfortunately, law enforcement has had a difficult time distinguishing between people who have made a genuine mistake, and people who were attempting to play the system. And as a result, people who did nothing more than check the wrong box on a form are left facing serious charges, costly fines, and more importantly, jail time.
On top of these charges, law enforcement typically piles on charges for the misdemeanor offense of Unsworn Falsification to Authorities. This law basically criminalizes making a false statement in “which he does not believe to be true” in an attempt to “mislead a public servant in performing his official function.”
Common Mistakes on Gun Applications
The forms include a few tricky questions that could be answered incorrectly if one isn't paying attention. Misinformation and ignorance of state laws is the number one reason for these arrests, so it pays to be informed. The following topics listed on the forms have been the culprits that lead to the arrest of gun applicants:
- Prior criminal convictions: the firearm application will mention whether or not you have been convicted of a crime that could have potentially resulted in a prison sentence for more than one year. Many people have incorrectly answered this question due to the fact they weren't sentenced to do time. If you were sentenced to probation, or made to pay fines for a crime that upon conviction could have landed you in jail, the answer to this question is “yes.”
- PFA orders: Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders are Pennsylvania's version of restraining orders. If a person has attended a PFA hearing, and issued a standard PFA that prohibits them from possessing a firearm, they will be denied gun ownership while the order is in effect. Many people believe that being served with a PFA relinquishes their rights to purchase a firearm forever, so they end up unnecessarily stretching the truth on this answer. Or some people believe that if the PFA has been lifted, that it doesn't count, so they answer incorrectly.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, a simple mistake on a firearm application can cost you a lot in Pennsylvania. Trusting the criminal justice system to realize you made an honest mistake and dismiss your charges is too risky, and quite frankly, naive. You need the help of a dedicated attorney to effectively defend your case, and prove that you're an innocent person who had no foul intentions. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience successfully representing people who have been in this scary situation, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today.