If you are contemplating owning and/or carrying a gun in the state of Pennsylvania, it's important that you understand the rights, obligations, and guidelines associated with gun ownership outlined in the state's statutes. In this article, we will address the questions that are asked frequently by state residents. Hopefully, the answers can help you make the right steps towards owning a gun and help you steer clear of potential gun charges.
What exactly is considered a “firearm” in Pennsylvania?
When you first read this question you may assume the answer is a no-brainer, but under Pennsylvania law, the answer isn't as simple as you think. A weapon that most people would consider a gun, may not meet the legal definition of a “firearm” in accordance with state law.
The Uniform Firearms Act provides a very detailed definition that defines a firearm based on distinct characteristics, such as the type of the gun, the length of the barrel, and the length of the gun itself. It provides that a firearm is “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.”
This definition is generally referenced to determine the guidelines of gun possession. If someone possesses a gun without a license, it is not illegal unless it meets this definition of a firearm.
But what confuses and incriminates people in the state of Pennsylvania is the additional definition of a firearm in state statutes. The separate definition, specifically located in statute 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 6105, provides a broader definition of a what a “firearm” is. It reads that a firearm is any weapon that is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projective by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.”
This definition is used solely in crimes involving a weapon. The courts will use this definition to determine if the weapon used in the commission of a crime was, in fact, a firearm, and to further prove the intent of a defendant.
Do I need to be licensed to carry a gun?
In Pennsylvania, you do not necessarily need a license to own a gun. Many residents have purchased a gun to keep in their home or business for uses of protection. However, if residents wish to carry a concealed weapon physically on them or in their vehicle, they are required to obtain a license to carry.
Applicants must be at least 21 years old and must apply through either their Sheriff or county. For residents in Philadelphia, applicants must apply to the Police Chief for a license to carry a concealed firearm.
Is Pennsylvania an “open carry” state?
Some states, like Arizona for example, have enacted legislation that allows its residents to carry a firearm in a holster that is open to public view. This is known as an “open carry” law.
Pennsylvania law doesn't specifically address whether or not a firearm is permitted to be openly carried, so many people are under the impression that is legal. However, just because there are no laws that outright prohibit this action, it doesn't mean you should. It's always better to be safe than sorry, and take the necessary steps to obtain a license, and not partake in risky behavior involving a firearm.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing gun charges or have more questions about any aspects of gun ownership in Pennsylvania, you should get in contact with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Skilled legal professional Joseph D. Lento is here to help. Contact him today.