Our Pennsylvania criminal defense law firm represents a lot of people who are charged with the illegal possession of guns or firearms. These persons face charges violating Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA), specifically sections 6105, 6106, 6108, 6110. I have written other articles on gun charges and I invite you to read them. Right now, I want to focus on gun ownership in Pennsylvania and specifically the right to carry your gun in Pennsylvania.
Believe or not, many people believe that you need a license to simply own a gun in Pennsylvania. This is simply not true and under the Second Amendment, you have the “right to bear arms.” The 10th Amendment, however, allows individuals states like Pennsylvania to regulate the use of those guns and firearms. It’s not a crime to own a gun and keep it in your home or place of business. You commit a crime, however, when you leave your home or place of business with you gun, without a License to Carry a Firearm (LTCF).
A LTCF requires a person to make an application through their county sheriff’s office with exception to my hometown of Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, all gun applications are handled through the Philadelphia Police Department’s Gun Permit & Tracking Unit Department. Pennsylvania residents and non-resident are eligible for an LTCF and the permit is valid for 5 years. All counties in Pennsylvania must honor permits issued from another county so Philadelphia (which is both a City and a County) must honor a LTCF issued from Montgomery, Bucks or Delaware counties Pennsylvania.
While a person may be eligible for an LTCF, the Philadelphia Police or your county sheriff (if you are outside of Philadelphia) are not required to give you an LTCF. These Pennsylvania law enforcement offices will review all LTCF applications and determine if a person should be permitted to carry their firearm. The application process involves a background check and in some counties like Philadelphia, a short interview. The application requires that you provide character references. These are people who would be willing to state that you are a person of good character—honest, peaceful and law abiding.
Most people believe that as long as you don’t have a criminal conviction (felony, misdemeanor, summary) you will be approved for an LTCF. This is again, simply wrong! According to Pennsylvania law, the purpose of LTCF is to ensure that gun permits aren’t given to people who will be potentially irresponsible with that gun or firearm with that weapon. This definition is obviously much broader than a person who is convicted of a crime. The LTCF process in Pennsylvania not only involves a criminal background check but also a character background check that will go beyond your criminal record.
Most of my frequent readers know that a criminal conviction means that you were found guilty, pled guilty or pled no contest to criminal charges. This means that the prosecution (district attorney) met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in your criminal case. A criminal conviction however isn’t the only factor that will prevent you from obtaining an LTCF for your gun in the Commonwealth. An arrest for crimes pertaining to drugs, violence and even DUI, can all potentially prevent you from getting an LTCF even if they didn’t result in a conviction.
Remember, it’s also a character background check so an arrest record (especially for criminal charges involving violence or drugs) along with any type of domestic violence (Protection from Abuse Orders) can also prevent you from obtaining a gun or firearm permit in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” jurisdiction, meaning that your county sheriff or the Philadelphia Police should issue a permit within 45 days of your application provided that you meet the background requirements.
Finally, Pennsylvania does honor permits from other states but a person should always check on the other state’s reciprocity status with Pennsylvania. Never make an assumption because the illegal possession of a gun in Pennsylvania is a felony offense which could mean jail time or an extend period of probation. Many people wrongly assume that because New Jersey is so close that it has reciprocity with Pennsylvania with regards to guns. In reality Pennsylvania doesn’t have reciprocity with any of it’s border states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland). The only exception is West Virginia.
If you have a LTCF from any of these border states (except WV) it’s not valid in Pennsylvania and you are committing a crime under section 6106 and possibly 6108 (if you are in Philadelphia). If you have more questions about gun crimes in Pennsylvania, read my free book Commonwealth v. You, watch my free videos or subscribe to my monthly newsletter.