Ammunition Regulation in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law makes it a separate crime for a person who commits or attempts to commit a “crime of violence” to possess, use or attempt to use a KTW teflon-coated bullet or other “armor-piercing ammunition” while committing or attempting to commit that crime.1 “Armor-piercing ammunition” is defined as:

[A]mmunition which, when or if fired from any firearm as defined in section 6102 that is used or attempted to be used in violation of subsection (a) under the test procedure of the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standard for the Ballistics Resistance of Police Body Armor promulgated December 1978, is determined to be capable of penetrating bullet-resistant apparel or body armor meeting the requirements of Type IIA of Standard NILECJ-STD-0101.01 as formulated by the United States Department of Justice and published in December of 1978.2

Pennsylvania law does not otherwise regulate the sale or possession of ammunition in any way.

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6121. ⤴︎
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6121(d). ⤴︎

Background Checks in Pennsylvania

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

The Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) serves as a state point of contact for NICS.1 Before a federally licensed importer, manufacturer or dealer transfers a firearm to an unlicensed person, the importer, manufacturer or dealer must request, by means of a telephone call, that PSP conduct a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history, and a mental health check.2 The licensee and the purchaser must provide such information as is necessary to accurately identify the purchaser, and the licensee must inspect photo identification of the potential purchaser or transferee.3 The licensee may not transfer the firearm until he or she receives a unique approval number from PSP for the purchase.4 The licensee must also collect from the buyer or transferee and forward to PSP a fee equivalent to the cost of conducting the background check, but not exceeding $2 per buyer or transferee, and issue a receipt containing the approval number to the purchaser or transferee.5

The dealer is prohibited from transferring the firearm if PSP has issued a “temporary delay” in order to investigate whether the person has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor that disqualifies the person from firearm possession.6

In addition, to sell a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun, a dealer must:

  • Require the purchaser to complete a purchase application, which includes a statement that the purchaser is the actual buyer of the firearm. The dealer must retain a copy of the application for at least 20 years, mail the original to PSP within 14 days of the sale, and provide one copy to the purchaser;
  • Record the approval number on the application; and
  • If the purchaser passes the background check, deliver the firearm to the purchaser securely wrapped and unloaded.7

Upon receipt of a request for a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history and mental health record check of the potential purchaser or transferee, PSP must immediately during the licensee’s call or by return call review PSP’s criminal history, fingerprint records, juvenile delinquency and mental health records to determine if the potential purchaser or transferee is prohibited from receipt or possession of a firearm under federal or state law.8 PSP must then inform the licensee making the inquiry either that the potential purchase or transfer is prohibited, or provide the licensee with a unique approval number.9

According to the 2013 Firearms Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State Police, PSP searches the following databases as part of a background check prior to approving a firearm transfer:

  • NICS;
  • PSP’s criminal history records;
  • PSP’s juvenile delinquency records;
  • PSP’s mental health records;
  • PSP’s protection from abuse file (see the Pennsylvania Domestic Violence and Firearms section); and
  • PSP’s wanted/missing person file.10

Pennsylvania law allows PSP to issue a temporary delay of the approval of the purchase or transfer of a firearm if the criminal history or juvenile delinquency background check indicates a conviction for a misdemeanor that PSP cannot determine is or is not related to domestic violence.11 Federal and Pennsylvania law prohibit firearm possession by persons convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors. See the Pennsylvania Domestic Violence and Firearms section for further information. During the temporary delay, PSP must investigate the conviction with courts and law enforcement or related institutions as necessary to determine whether the misdemeanor conviction involved domestic violence.12 PSP must conduct the investigation as expeditiously as possible.13

Law enforcement files concerning any child adjudicated delinquent for any criminal activity that would prohibit him or her from firearm possession must be recorded in the registry of PSP for the limited purpose of firearm background checks.14

For information about the reporting of mental health information for use in firearm purchaser background checks, see the Pennsylvania Mental Health Reporting section.

Pennsylvania law requires PSP to maintain a telephone number, operational seven days a week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., for purposes of responding to inquiries from licensees. PSP must also employ and train such personnel as necessary to expeditiously administer these requirements.15

A person who has been denied a firearms transfer based on a background check may seek review from PSP and/or appeal that decision to the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The person may further appeal an unfavorable decision by the Attorney General in court.16

Statistics regarding background checks for firearm transfers in Pennsylvania can be found in the 2013 Firearms Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State Police. For example, in 2013, more than 11,000 firearm transfers were denied due to prohibitions in the record of the person attempting to obtain a firearm.17

For a discussion of persons prohibited by federal or state law from possessing or purchasing a firearm, see the Pennsylvania Prohibited Purchasers Generally section.

In Pennsylvania, private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) may only sell a handgun to an unlicensed purchaser through a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer or county sheriff’s office, who must initiate a background check as described above.18 Private sellers are not required to initiate background checks when transferring a long gun in Pennsylvania, although federal and state laws prohibiting certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms still apply. See the Pennsylvania Private Sales section for more information.

A person violating these provisions who has already been convicted under them previously (in other words, a repeat offender), receives an enhanced punishment under Pennsylvania law.19

See the section below for information regarding the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Pennsylvania.

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6111, 6111.1; see also Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report (2014). ⤴︎
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(3). As of February 3, 2014 an online interface is also available for dealers to initiate a background check. See Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report (2014). ⤴︎
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(2), (3). ⤴︎
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(4). ⤴︎
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(a), (b). ⤴︎
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(7). ⤴︎
  7. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(a), (b); 37 Pa. Code § 33.111. For more information about the procedures that licensed dealers must follow to complete the sale, please see the administrative regulations of PSP available at 37 Pa. Code §§ 33.102-33.113. ⤴︎
  8. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(b)(1)(i), (ii). ⤴︎
  9. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(b)(1)(iii). ⤴︎
  10. Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report 2-3 (2014). ⤴︎
  11. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(7). ⤴︎
  12. Id. ⤴︎
  13. Id. ⤴︎
  14. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(h)(2). ⤴︎
  15. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(c). ⤴︎
  16. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(e). ⤴︎
  17. Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report 1 (2014). ⤴︎
  18. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(c), (f)(1)-(2); 37 Pa. Code § 33.111(g). ⤴︎
  19. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(h). ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law penalizes any person who, without a license, carries a firearm in any vehicle or concealed on or about his or her person, other than at his or her home or business.1

Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state, meaning that local law enforcement must issue a license to carry a firearm if the applicant meets certain qualifications. Law enforcement must issue a license “if, after an investigation not to exceed 45 days, it appears that the applicant is an individual concerning whom no good cause exists to deny the license.”2 The applicant must state a reason for seeking the license, which may include self-defense, employment, hunting, target shooting, gun collecting, or “another proper reason.”3 A license will be denied if the applicant:

  • Is not 21 years of age;
  • Has a character and reputation indicating the applicant would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety;
  • Has been convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent in the past ten years for, any offense under The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act (35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 780-101 et seq.);
  • Does not qualify to possess a firearm under Pennsylvania law or has been convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent in the past ten years for, any of the crimes which disqualify individuals from firearm possession under Pennsylvania law (see the Pennsylvania Background Checks and Prohibited Persons in Pennsylvania sections for more information);
  • Is not of sound mind or has ever been committed to a mental institution;
  • Is addicted to or an unlawful user of marijuana or a stimulant, depressant or narcotic drug;
  • Is a habitual drunkard;
  • Has been charged with, or convicted of, a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment;
  • Is an undocumented alien;
  • Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is otherwise prohibited from possessing, using, manufacturing, controlling, purchasing, selling, or transferring a firearm as provided by Pennsylvania law; or
  • Is prohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm under the United States Code.4

The license may be revoked by the issuing authority for “good cause,” which exists where, among other things, the license holder falls into any of the categories listed above.5

Firearm Safety Training

Pennsylvania law does not require applicants for a license to carry a firearm to undergo firearm safety training or otherwise demonstrate knowledge of firearms safety.

Duration & Renewal

A Pennsylvania license to carry a firearm is valid for up to five years.6

Disclosure or Use of Information

Pennsylvania does not allow personal application or license information of license holders to be made public. All information provided by the license applicant, including but not limited to his or her name or identity, “shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure.”7

Reciprocity

Pennsylvania law allows the state Attorney General to enter into agreements with other states to honor their concealed weapons permits in Pennsylvania.8 The law requires the Attorney General to annually contact any other state that does not have a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania to determine if:

  • The state will negotiate a reciprocity agreement;
  • A licensee may carry a concealed firearm in that state; or
  • A licensee may apply for a license or permit to carry a firearm issued by the state.9

The Attorney General shall maintain a current list of states with any of the above, and the list shall be posted on the Internet, provided to the Pennsylvania State Police and made available to the public upon request. For the current list of such states, see the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General web site.

Pennsylvania law also provides an exception to the requirement of a license to carry a firearm for any person who possesses a valid and lawfully issued license or permit to carry a firearm under the laws of another state, regardless of whether a reciprocity agreement exists, if the state provides a reciprocal privilege for individuals licensed to carry firearms under Pennsylvania law, and the Attorney General has determined that the firearm laws of the state are similar to the firearm laws of Pennsylvania.10

See our Carrying Concealed Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6106(a)(1). If the offender is otherwise eligible for a license, however, the penalty is less severe. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6106(a)(2). Please see the Guns in Vehicles section for a list of exceptions. ⤴︎
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(e). ⤴︎
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(c). ⤴︎
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109. ⤴︎
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(i). Additional application and background check requirements, as well as license suspension and disqualification information, are detailed under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109 and 37 Pa. Code §§ 33.114, 33.115, 33.119. In 2008, Pennsylvania enacted a law allowing local law enforcement to issue a “temporary emergency license to carry a concealed firearm,” which is valid for 45 days. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(m.1). To obtain a temporary license, a person must submit evidence of imminent danger to himself or herself or his or her minor child, and a sworn affidavit attesting that he or she is eligible for a license to carry a firearm and not legally prohibited from possessing a firearm. The evidence of imminent danger must take the form of a police report or other document prepared by a law enforcement officer describing facts that give rise to the person’s reasonable fear of criminal attack. The sheriff must conduct a background check prior to issuing a temporary license. Prior to the expiration of the temporary license, if it is not revoked, the sheriff must issue a regular license to carry a firearm to the person. Id. ⤴︎
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(f); 37 Pa. Code § 33.115(d). Renewal provisions can be found under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(f)(2). An exception exists to the requirement of a license to carry a firearm for a person whose license expired within the previous six months and who is otherwise eligible for renewal. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6106(b)(12). ⤴︎
  7. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(i); see also 37 Pa. Code § 33.103. ⤴︎
  8. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(k). ⤴︎
  9. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(m). ⤴︎
  10. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6106(b)(15). ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in Pennsylvania

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

Pennsylvania law requires all retail firearms dealers to be licensed by the state.1 A license will be revoked if the licensee:

  • Fails to conduct business only where designated in the license or at a lawful gun show or meet;
  • Fails to display the license on the premises;
  • Sells any firearm in violation of Pennsylvania law;
  • Sells a firearm to a purchaser without evidence of the purchaser’s identity unless the purchaser is personally known to the licensee;
  • Fails to keep a record in triplicate of every firearm sold and retain the records for 20 years;
  • Displays any firearm where it can be readily seen from outside the premises;
  • Fails to store firearms securely when closed for business in the event of a clear and present danger to public safety as declared by the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”); or
  • Fails to possess all applicable current revenue licenses.2

By signing the application for a license to sell firearms, the applicant is acknowledging that if a license is granted, the applicant gives permission to PSP, or their designee, and the issuing authority, to visit the licensee’s business location and inspect the premises, records, and documents without a warrant.3

When an unlicensed person sells or transfer a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun to another unlicensed person, he or she must do so upon the place of business of a licensed dealer, and the dealer must follow the procedures for the transfer as if he or she were the seller of the firearm.4

All licensed dealers must provide each purchaser a free firearms safety brochure containing a summary of state firearms regulations.5 The brochures are provided by PSP at no cost to the dealer.6

Pennsylvania law only regulates the storage of firearms and ammunition by dealers when closed for business in an area where the Commissioner of PSP has found a clear and present danger to public safety to exist.7

Retail firearms dealer licenses are issued by the chief or head of any police force or police department of a city, and, elsewhere, the sheriff of the county, and are valid for three years.8

For information about the Pennsylvania law:

See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6112. ⤴︎
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6113. For information about applications for a Pennsylvania license to sell firearms, see 37 Pa. Code § 33.116. ⤴︎
  3. 37 Pa. Code § 33.116(c). ⤴︎
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(c). A person violating these provisions who has already been convicted under them previously (in other words, a repeat offender), receives an enhanced punishment under Pennsylvania law. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(h). ⤴︎
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6125; 37 Pa. Code § 33.111(d)(5). ⤴︎
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6125. ⤴︎
  7. 37 Pa. Code §§ 31.101-31.106. ⤴︎
  8. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6113(a). ⤴︎

Design Safety Standards for Handguns in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania does not specifically regulate junk guns or unsafe firearms. According to research conducted by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (now Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence), however, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General may have the authority to regulate junk guns, as well as promulgate other firearms safety standards, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.1 For details, view the Center’s report, Targeting Safety.

See our Design Safety Standards for Handguns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 73 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 201-3, 201-3.1. ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Pennsylvania

With the exception of persons subject to an active protection from abuse order, Pennsylvania law gives persons prohibited from possessing firearms a “reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days from the date of the imposition” of the firearm prohibition, in which to sell or transfer his or her firearms to another eligible person who is not a member of the prohibited person’s household.1

A policy of the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department provides that anyone under its supervision has 10 days to dispose of a weapon. This policy provides for surrender of firearms to the police department, sale to a licensed firearms dealer, or sale to an eligible person. After the person sells or transfers his or her firearms, he or she is required to provide his or her Probation or Parole officer with a receipt or record of sale.2

For laws governing the procedure for surrender of firearms by a person subject to a protective order, see the section entitled Domestic Violence and Firearms in Pennsylvania.

Notes
  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(a)(1)(i). ⤴︎
  2. First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Adult Probation and Parole Department, Firearms Surrender Policy. ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Pennsylvania

See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Firearm Prohibitions for Domestic Violence Misdemeanants

Only persons prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms as a result of a domestic violence misdemeanor are subject to Pennsylvania’s law prohibiting firearm possession by domestic violence misdemeanants.1

For information about temporary delays in the background process that allow the Pennsylvania State Police to determine whether a misdemeanor involved domestic violence, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks section.

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Protective Orders, and Relinquishment of Firearms When Domestic Violence Protective Orders Are Issued

Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone subject to a current domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm if the protective order provides for the relinquishment of firearms,2 and a court issuing a domestic violence protective order must order the abuser to relinquish all firearms under his or her possession or control, as well as any firearm license.3 Any family member or current or former sexual or intimate partner who has been subject to abuse may seek such an order.4 When ordered to relinquish firearms, the abuser must relinquish his or her firearms to law enforcement or a licensed dealer within 24 hours.5 Any firearm license must be relinquished to a sheriff.6

A plaintiff may also petition for a “temporary” order for protection from abuse if he or she alleges immediate and present danger of abuse to the plaintiff or minor children, in which case the court shall conduct an “ex parte” proceeding (without notice to the defendant).7 In an ex parte proceeding, the court may direct that the defendant temporarily relinquish to the sheriff any firearms or ammunition for the duration of the temporary order if the petition demonstrates abuse which involves a firearm or other weapon, or an immediate and present danger of such abuse (based on a list of factors).8

Pennsylvania law requires the State Police to maintain a registry of temporary and final protection orders, court-approved consent agreements and foreign protection orders.9 This registry indicates whether firearms or ammunition were ordered relinquished in each protection order or consent agreement. A court that has entered a protection order or consent agreement must make the information available to the Pennsylvania State Police within 24 hours of the order.10

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks and Pennsylvania Prohibited Persons sections.

Removal of Firearms at the Scene of a Domestic Violence Incident

Pennsylvania law grants a police officer a right of arrest without a warrant whenever he or she has probable cause to believe the defendant has committed involuntary manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats, or stalking against a “family or household member,” even if the offense did not take place in the officer’s presence, if the officer first observes recent physical injury to the victim or other corroborative evidence.11 Pennsylvania law requires the arresting police officer in this situation to seize all weapons used by the defendant in the commission of the offense.12

In addition, Pennsylvania law grants a police officer a right of arrest without a warrant whenever he or she has probable cause to believe the defendant has violated a protection order, even if the violation was not committed in the presence of the police officer.13 Subsequent to the arrest, the police officer must seize all firearms and ammunition used or threatened to be used during the violation of the protection order or during prior incidents of abuse, and any other firearms in the defendant’s possession.14

Notes
  1. 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(33), 922(g)(9); 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(9). The relationship need not be an element of the offense to meet these requirements, so long as the offense was committed by a person in any of the following relationships: (i) the current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the victim; (ii) a person with whom the victim shares a child in common; (iii) a person who cohabits with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or (iv) a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(9)(iv). ⤴︎
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(6). ⤴︎
  3. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6108(a)(7). ⤴︎
  4. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6102(a), 6108. ⤴︎
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6105.2. ⤴︎
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105.2(g)(1). ⤴︎
  7. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6107(b)(1). ⤴︎
  8. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6107(b)(3). The factors to consider include whether the defendant has previously violated a protection from abuse order, whether past or present abuse to the plaintiff or any of the plaintiff’s minor children resulted in injury, whether the abuse occurred in public, and whether the abuse includes: i) threats of abuse or suicide; (ii) killing or threatening to kill pets; (iii) an escalation of violence; (iv) stalking or obsessive behavior; (v) sexual violence; or (vi) drug or excessive alcohol use. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6107(b)(3)(ii). ⤴︎
  9. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(e). ⤴︎
  10. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(e)(2), (4). ⤴︎
  11. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2711(a). See 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6102 (defining “family or household member”). ⤴︎
  12. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2711(b). ⤴︎
  13. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6113. ⤴︎
  14. Id. ⤴︎