Pennsylvania has enacted modest gun safety laws in recent years but still has significant room for improvement, earning a C+ on our Annual Gun Law Scorecard. Pennsylvania requires background checks on all handgun sales, including at gun shows, but does not extend this requirement to long guns. In 2017, Pennsylvania had the 25th-lowest gun death rate in the country and exported crime guns at around the national average rate. In addition to expanding its background checks laws, Pennsylvania legislators should consider funding community violence intervention programs and passing an extreme risk protection order law.
State Law Background
Among other things, Pennsylvania:
- Requires a background check prior to the unlicensed sale of a handgun;
- Conducts its own background checks when licensed dealers sell firearms;
- Requires firearm dealers to obtain a state license;
- Prohibits straw purchases, a common source of illegally trafficked firearms, and has a “Straw Purchaser Education Program”;
- Maintains a state database of information regarding the sale handguns and certain other types of firearms;
- Requires licensed dealers to include locking devices when transferring handguns or short-barreled rifles or shotguns.
However, Pennsylvania does not:
- Require a background check when an unlicensed person sells a rifle or shotgun;
- Require gun owners to report if their guns are lost or stolen;
- Have laws to prevent children or other unauthorized people from having easy access to unlocked firearms;
- Allow local governments to regulate firearms or ammunition;
- Prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Require firearm owners to obtain a license;
- Require the registration of firearms;
- Regulate ammunition sales; or
- Provide local law enforcement with discretion to deny a license to carry firearms.
In 2017, Pennsylvania had the 25th lowest gun death rate among the states. Pennsylvania supplied crime guns to other states at a similar rate to the national average. Pennsylvania also exported more crime guns than it imported.
Pennsylvania Firearms Laws
For details about specific firearms laws in Pennsylvania, choose a topic below, or see all of the firearms laws in this state.