Pennsylvania State Gun Laws
This article will go into detail about the gun laws in the great state of Pennsylvania. I have lived in this state my entire life and it is one of the more gun friendly states in the union. There are a few states that are even more gun friendly, but at the moment, I am pretty happy with PA gun laws.
It is unfortunate that each state in our union has different laws regarding guns. This means if you travel to another state and want to take your gun with you, you better know their gun laws or you could wind up in some trouble. For example, it is perfectly legal to pack your unloaded firearm in your checked luggage and fly to almost anywhere in the USA with no problems. However, if you fly into New York City with a gun in your luggage, you are breaking the law and could end up in considerable trouble if caught. See How to Fly with a Firearm.
In this article I will focus on the current laws in Pennsylvania.
I will discuss open carry laws and concealed carry laws, how to get a concealed carry permit, where you can and cannot carry your firearm and other details about the gun laws in Pennsylvania.
Please keep in mind that these PA gun laws can change at any time and that it is the responsibility of the gun owner to know the laws in the states and counties where you will be carrying your firearm.
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Do not base your decision to carry your firearm in Pennsylvania solely on this article. I make no guarantee that this information is accurate at the time you read it, although I will endeavor to keep it up to date and accurate. I am not a lawyer. I am simply providing this information that I have gathered from various trustworthy sources in one place for your convenience.
I will provide links to these sources which are constantly being updated so that you can check with them before you carry your firearm open or concealed in Pennsylvania.
What is an LCF?
Sometimes referred to as an LTCF, it stands for License to Carry Firearms. This is the official name of Pennsylvania’s concealed carry permit. I may refer to is throughout this article as an LCF, permit, license to carry or concealed carry permit. It is all the same thing.
Gun permit related statistics in Pennsylvania.
- There have been 1.3 million permits issued in PA.
- Pennsylvania state population is 12.8 million.
- Percentage of the population with a permit is 10.16%.
- States that honor the Pennsylvania carry permit 32.
- Pennsylvania honors 29 other states permits. See Attorney General of PA website for current reciprocity map.
- Concealed carry permit in Pennsylvania are good for 5 years.
- Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state. (Shall- issue means that if you apply for a permit they will issue you one unless there is a legal reason not to. Such as if you are a convicted felon.)
Pennsylvania Open Carry Laws
There is no law prohibiting Open Carry in Pennsylvania. See the restrictions below. You must be at least 18 years of age and you must be a person who is legally allowed to own and possess a firearm.
Open Carry Restrictions (without a Permit)
If you do not possess a PA LCF (License to Carry Firearms) and are not a prohibited person, there is no law stating that you cannot carry a firearm openly in Pennsylvania. The law is very clear that you cannot carry a concealed gun without a permit.
This means that if you decide to carry openly in PA, you will likely draw attention to yourself and may find yourself being stopped and questioned by law enforcement. Although there is no law against open carry in general, there ARE laws against the following without a License to Carry firearms:
- You cannot open carry a firearm in a vehicle
- You cannot open carry in the city of Philadelphia
- You cannot open carry during a declared emergency by the state or municipal government
- You cannot open carry in a state park
In short, although technically legal, Open Carry in PA is probably not a good idea. My recommendation is to go ahead and get the LCF and avoid the potential hassles.
Restrictions to open carry (with a permit)
If you have the LCF, you can open carry everywhere you can concealed carry. The same restrictions apply here as they do for concealed carry with a permit. See the section below on restrictions to concealed carry.
Pennsylvania concealed carry laws
In Pennsylvania, you must get an LCF in order to carry concealed. You must be at least 21 years of age to get this permit. The permit is honored in every county in PA, although there have been longstanding rumors that you cannot carry in Philadelphia. A concealed carry permit will allow you to carry almost anywhere, except for the following places:
- Correctional Institutions including land or buildings appurtenant (related to, or part of) to them
- The buildings of, or vehicles used to provide transportation to or from any publicly funded elementary or secondary school. Basically a bus depot and their buses and vans.
- Detention center or mental hospital
How to Obtain a Concealed Carry Permit in PA
The cost of a concealed carry permit or renewal in PA is $20. The permit is good for 5 years.
Here is a link to the Application for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms.
You will need 2 personal references to complete the form. These references cannot be family members.
Fill out the form and take it to your county Sheriffs Dept. with your drivers license or State ID. They will take your picture and collect the fee. They will do a background check and if it passes quickly, your will leave with your license. If not, they will notify you by mail.
That’s it. There are no classes or training of any kind that you are required to take in Pennsylvania. I would highly recommend that you take a defensive handgun course from a professional training facility, such as the 2-day or 4-day Defensive Handgun course at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
PA Laws Regarding the Sale or Transfer of Firearms
Here is some commonly needed information dealing with the purchase of a gun in Pennsylvania.
Is a permit required to purchase firearms in Pennsylvania?
No permit is needed to purchase a handgun or rifle in PA. You will need have a background check whether you have a valid LCF or not. State Police do have a database of handgun sales and buyers. There is no registration per se, other than this database.
Private-party sales and transfer laws
All sales and transfers between private parties handguns must be done through a licensed dealer or can be done at the county sheriff’s office. All transfers will require a background check.
If the sale or transfer is between spouses, children and their parents, or grandparents and grandchildren, these requirements do not apply.
Important Details You Need to Know When Carrying Concealed in PA
Here are a few critical pieces of information you need to know. Please read these if you are going to be legally carrying a gun and want to do it right!
Duty to Retreat in Pennsylvania?
No. You do not need to retreat from a deadly threat before you resort to using deadly force to defend yourself.
Can you carry in an establishment that serves and sells alcohol?
Yes. In Pennsylvania there is no law restricting you from carrying in such an establishment. I would encourage you to refrain from drinking alcohol when carrying a firearm. Be the designated driver, your friends will love you for it. See my article on Concealed Carry and Alcohol.
Are “No Guns” signs enforced by law?
No. Businesses that display “No Guns” or “No firearms” signs can only ask you to leave if they somehow find out you are armed. If you do not leave after being asked to leave, then you will be considered trespassing and that is enforceable by the police.
Duty to inform?
No. In Pennsylvania, you are not required to inform a law enforcement officer that you are carrying a firearm if you are stopped for a traffic violation or are questioned by police on another matter.
My advice on this is that it is a good idea to inform the officer in this situation. Never touch or reach for the gun, just hand the officer your permit along with your drivers license or ID. Always have your hands in plain view anytime you are informing an officer about your gun. My reasoning on this is simple.
The sooner the officer knows you are a properly licensed concealed carrier, the better. If you are asked to exit the vehicle, you do not want him to find the gun BEFORE he knows it is legal. This could result in him drawing his weapon on you for his own protection. Police are our friends and we want interactions with them to be respectful and peaceful, so be courteous and let them know you are a good guy or gal.
Concealed Carry Recommendations
I highly recommend joining the USCCA (United States Concealed Carry Association) if you are going to carry a firearm for self defense. USCCA will provide you with critical, up to date information and training. They will also provide you with legal defense if you find yourself in need of legal advice and a lawyer after using deadly force to defend yourself. Please read this article before you start to carry a gun. Why you need self defense insurance.
I recently made the decision to sign my wife and I up for a Platinum Membership with the USCCA (United States Concealed Carry Association). Since we both Concealed Carry all the time, I decided to get some of the best online information and training available. The membership also includes up to $2,250,000 in self defense liability insurance. Click the link to check out the USCCA. USCCA Costs and Benefits.
If you have other questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.
I will just leave you with a word of advice. Always use common sense when carrying a handgun, concealed or otherwise. You must never instigate a problem or escalate an issue. If you get into an argument on the street and it ends with you drawing your weapon, you had better be the picture of innocence if you want to claim self defense.