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Pennsylvania Gun Laws

Although Pennsylvania has some restrictive gun laws, the state makes it fairly easy for citizens to obtain and own firearms. Pennsylvania requires background checks on most firearm transfers, but does not have any licensing or registration system in place. Obtaining a concealed carry license is a simple process in Pennsylvania. The state largely respects its citizens’ right to bear arms, despite having passed recent gun-restrictive legislation. Obtaining firearm in Pennsylvania is a simple process, but you may encounter some restrictions.

Pennsylvania Gun Laws at a Glance

Concealed Carry Premit Required Yes
Open Carry Premitted Yes
Waiting period before purchasing No
Lost and Stolen Firearm Reporting No
Firearms License Required for Purchasing No
Universal Background Check Handguns Only
Firearm Registration No
Large Capacity Magazine Ban No

Firearm License Requirements

Pennsylvania does not require gun owners to obtain any kind of license.
Individuals who are over the age of 21 can purchase a handgun in Pennsylvania as long as they can provide a state-issued ID and pass a background check. All handgun sales and transfers, including those among individuals who are not dealers, are required to take place at the business of a licensed firearm dealer or at the local county sheriff’s office. The buyer must sign a transfer application/record of sale to complete the purchase a handgun.
Sportsman’s Firearm Permit A Sportsman’s Firearm Permit is valid for hunting, trapping, dog training, and fishing. An individual who is at least 18 years old can apply for this permit through the county treasurer as long as he or she has a hunting or fishing license. Once it is obtained, the Sportsman’s Firearm Permit must be carried with a valid hunting or fishing license. The permit is effective for five years unless there is cause for it to be revoked during this time frame. The Sportsman's permit does not authorize an individual to carry concealed or to transport a loaded handgun in a vehicle.

Background Checks

Before transferring a firearm to an individual, a licensed dealer must request a background check from the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”). This background check will include criminal history, juvenile delinquency, and a mental health check. The dealer may not complete the transfer until he or she receives a unique approval number from the PSP.
All handgun sales and transfers, including those between individuals who are not dealers, are required to take place at the business of a licensed firearm dealer or at the local county sheriff’s office.

Gun Shows

Pennsylvania law does not regulate gun shows, but the state does specify that the place of business for a retail firearms dealer can include a lawful gun show.
A private seller may also transfer a handgun at a gun show, but the private seller must conduct a background check on the transferee through a licensed dealer.

Hardware and Ammunition Restrictions

Hardware Restrictions
Assault Weapons No restrictions.
50 Caliber Rifles No restrictions.
Machine Guns Prohibited
Large Capacity Magazines No restrictions.
Ammunition Armor-piercing ammunition is prohibited.

Prohibited Persons

The following individuals are not allowed to purchase or possess firearms in Pennsylvania:

  • Individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes
  • Subjects of a protective or restraining order
  • Individuals who have been convicted of a controlled substance offense punishable by more than two years
  • Individuals who have been deemed mentally incompetent
  • Fugitives or illegal immigrants
  • Individuals who have been convicted of drunk driving three times within a five-year period

Prohibited Places

Location Restrictions Exceptions
Schools It is against the law to possess a firearm on school property. A firearm may be permitted if possessed for a supervised school activity or other lawful purpose.
Vehicles In the state of Pennsylvania, long guns can be transported in a vehicle as long as they are unloaded. It is against the law to transport a long gun that is loaded, regardless of whether an individual has a license or permit.
To transport a handgun in a motor vehicle, an individual must have a license to carry or a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit. Under Pennsylvania law, any person who carries a handgun in any vehicle "without a valid and lawfully issued license" commits a felony.
A handgun may be carried without a Pennsylvania permit under one of the following conditions:
  • The individual is driving directly to or from target shooting practice or assembly.
  • The person is a member of law enforcement, such as a police officer, jail warden, or sheriff's deputy.
  • The individual possesses a valid license that has been issued by a reciprocal state or under federal laws.
  • The individual is traveling to a site for hunting or fishing with a valid Sportsman’s Firearm Permit.
  • The person has a lawfully issued license to carry that has expired within six months, and the person is eligible to have the license renewed
  • The individual is operating a vehicle that is registered to a parent or spouse who has a valid license and owns the firearm.
  • The gun is unloaded and stored separately from the ammunition in a secure container.

It is also against the law in Pennsylvania to possess any firearm:

  • In a federal court facility. All other court facilities will provide a locker to secure firearms.
  • On public property in Philadelphia if an individual is not licensed to carry firearms or exempt from licensing requirements.

Concealed Carry Laws

Notify Officer No
“No Gun” Signs Not enforced
In-Vehicle Carry Yes -- With permit
Restaurant Carry Yes
State Park Carry Yes
While Hunting Yes

Obtaining a Concealed Carry License

Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state. This means that the governing body must issue a concealed carry permit to a given applicant if certain qualifications are met.

Requirements for a Concealed Carry License
An applicant must:
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a resident (for 90 days) of the county where the application is filed or possess a permit/license from another state of residence
  • Not have been convicted of (or adjudicated delinquent in the past 10 years for) any criminal offense under The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act
  • Qualify to possess a firearm under Pennsylvania law
  • Not have been convicted of (or adjudicated delinquent in the past 10 years for) any crimes that would disqualify him or her from firearm possession under Pennsylvania law
  • Be of sound mind
  • Not have ever been convicted to a mental institution
  • Not be addicted to any drugs or alcohol
  • Not have been charged with (or convicted of) any crime punishable by more than 1 year of imprisonment
  • Not be an undocumented alien
  • Not have been dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces
  • Not be a fugitive
  • Not be otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm under Pennsylvania law
  • Meet all federal law requirements.

Concealed Carry Firearms Training

Pennsylvania law does not require anyone to undergo firearms training prior to obtaining a concealed carry license.

Concealed Carry Location Restrictions

Even with a concealed carry permit, you may not possess a firearm on or in:

  • The buildings and grounds of an elementary or secondary school
  • School buses
  • Courthouses
  • Detention centers and correctional facilities
  • Mental hospitals
  • The public areas of One Penn Center, 2601 North Third Street
  • Secured areas of airports
  • Any place where firearms are prohibited by state or federal law

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice or acted upon as if it is legal advice: it is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only. While we strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or currency of the information. Gun laws can change frequently, especially at the state and local levels. Application of gun laws can be unique to an individual’s situation. We recommend that each individual consult with a competent and qualified legal professional before purchasing, transporting, or using any firearm or firearm-related product.