Carrying Firearms in Pennsylvania
Who can apply for a Pennsylvania License to Carry?
An individual who is 21 years of age or older may apply for a license to carry firearms by submitting a completed Application for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms to the sheriff of the county in which they reside or if a resident of a city of the first class, with the chief of police of that city along with the required fee.
Individuals who are 21 years of age or older and are NOT Pennsylvania residents may apply for a license by submitting a completed Application for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms to any Pennsylvania County Sheriff’s office along with the required fee. A Pennsylvania license cannot be issued to a resident of another state who does not possess a current license or permit or similar document to carry a firearm issued by their home state if a license is provided for by the laws of that state, as published annually in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of the Department of the Treasury.
The sheriff has 45 days to conduct an investigation to determine an individual's eligibility to be issued a license. Included in the investigation is a background check conducted on the individual through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) to determine if the records indicate the individual is prohibited by law. In accordance with 18 PA C.S. §6109, a sheriff may deny an individual the right to a License to Carry Firearms if there is reason to believe that the character and reputation of the individual are such that they would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.
If the PICS check is approved and the subject is of good character, the sheriff may issue a License to Carry Firearms. The issuance of a License to Carry Firearms allows individuals to carry a firearm concealed on or about their person, or in a vehicle throughout this Commonwealth. The license is valid for a period of five (5) years unless sooner revoked.
NOTE: A license to carry firearms is NOT a license to purchase. Individuals who purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer are required to have a background check conducted regardless of whether they have a license to carry firearms or not.
Are there exceptions to carrying a firearm without a Pennsylvania License to Carry?
A License to Carry Firearms is issued to carry a firearm concealed on one’s person or in a vehicle within this Commonwealth. Any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person except in his place of abode or fixed place of business without a valid and lawfully issued license commits a felony of the third degree.
A person who is otherwise eligible to possess a valid license under this chapter but carries a firearm in any vehicle or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license and has not committed any other criminal violation commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Listed below are exceptions as outlined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6106. (2) (b) Exceptions:
- Constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen of this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, or other law-enforcement officers.
- Members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard of the United States or of the National Guard or organized reserves when on duty.
- The regularly enrolled members of any organization duly organized to purchase or receive such weapons from the United States or from this Commonwealth.
- Any persons engaged in target shooting with rifle, pistol, or revolver, if such persons are at or are going to or from their places of assembly or target practice and if, while going to or from their places of assembly or target practice, the firearm is not loaded.
- Officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry a concealed firearm.
- Agents, messengers and other employees of common carriers, banks, or business firms, whose duties require them to protect moneys, valuables and other property in the discharge of such duties. (Individuals carrying a firearm as an incidence of their employment are required to be certified through the Lethal Weapons Training Act requirements set forth in 22 P.S. § 44(b).
- Any person engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing, or dealing in firearms, or the agent or representative of any such person, having in his possession, using or carrying a firearm in the usual or ordinary course of such business.
- Any person while carrying a firearm which is not loaded and is in a secure wrapper from the place of purchase to his home or place of business, or to a place of repair, sale or appraisal or back to his home or place of business, or in moving from one place of abode or business to another or from his home to a vacation or recreational home or dwelling or back, or to recover stolen property under section 6111.1(b)(4) (relating to Pennsylvania State Police) or to a place of instruction intended to teach the safe handling, use or maintenance of firearms, or back to a location to which the person has been directed to relinquish firearms under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108 (relating to relief) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm or to a licensed dealer’s place of business for relinquishment pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.2 (relating to relinquishment for consignment sale, lawful transfer or safekeeping) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm or to a location for safekeeping pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.3 (relating to relinquishment to third party for safekeeping) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm.
- Persons licensed to hunt, take furbearers or fish in this Commonwealth, if such persons are actually hunting, taking furbearers or fishing or are going to the places where they desire to hunt, take furbearers or fish or returning from such places.
- Persons training dogs, if such persons are actually training dogs during the regular training season.
- Any person while carrying a firearm in any vehicle, which person possesses a valid and lawfully issued license for that firearm which has been issued under the laws of the United States or any other state.
- A person who has a lawfully issued license to carry a firearm pursuant to section 6109 (relating to licenses) and that said license expired within six months prior to the date of arrest and that the individual is otherwise eligible for renewal of the license.
- Any person who is otherwise eligible to possess a firearm under this chapter and who is operating a motor vehicle which is registered in the person's name or the name of a spouse or parent and which contains a firearm for which a valid license has been issued pursuant to section 6109 to the spouse or parent owning the firearm.
- A person lawfully engaged in the interstate transportation of a firearm as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3) (relating to definitions) in compliance with 18 U.S.C. § 926A (relating to interstate transportation of firearms).
- Any person who possesses a valid and lawfully issued license or permit to carry a firearm which has been issued under the laws of another state, regardless of whether a reciprocity agreement exists between the Commonwealth and the state under section 6109(k), provided:
(i) The state provides a reciprocal privilege for individuals licensed to carry firearms under section 6109.
(ii) The Attorney General has determined that the firearm laws of the state are similar to the firearm laws of this Commonwealth.
(Note that before an exception would be granted under numbers 9 and 10, the person must obtain a valid Sportsman’s Firearm Permit from the county treasurer.)
Who can apply for a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit?
An individual who is age 18 or older and is licensed to hunt, trap or fish, or who has been issued a permit relating to hunting dogs, may apply for a Sportsman's Firearm Permit by submitting a completed application along with the required fee to the county treasurer's office. The permit shall be issued immediately and be valid throughout this Commonwealth for a period of five years from the date of issue for any "legal firearm", when carried in conjunction with a valid hunting, furtaking or fishing license, or permit relating to hunting dogs. The issuances of a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit allows the individual to carry a firearm if such persons are actually hunting, taking furbearers, fishing or training dogs, or are going to the places where they desire to hunt, take furbearers, fish, or train dogs during the regular training season, or returning from such places. A Sportsman's Firearm Permit is NOT a License to Carry a firearm concealed.
How can I find the most recent information regarding Firearm Reciprocity Agreements?
In 1995, the Pennsylvania General Assembly gave the Attorney General the authority to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states providing for the mutual recognition of each state’s license to carry a firearm. The most current information concerning what states have reciprocity agreements with Pennsylvania is posted on the Attorney General’s website. To access this information on their web site, select “Crime” and from the drop down box select “Firearm Reciprocity”. From here you can view all the states that currently have reciprocity agreements with Pennsylvania along with a copy of the actual reciprocity agreements. All licenses issued by reciprocity states are recognized in Pennsylvania.
Other information included under “Firearm Reciprocity” is a list of states that allow individuals to carry concealed weapons in their state as long as they have a valid concealed weapons permit from their home state, regardless of whether or not there is a reciprocity agreement with that state. These states usually require the individual to have the actual permit and photo ID on their person while carrying the weapon. Note that to lawfully carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania, a person must either:
- Possess a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms;
- maintain residency in, and possess a valid license/permit to carry a firearm from a state with which Pennsylvania has a current reciprocity agreement, or;
- fall within the applicable exceptions in 18 Pa. C.S. §6106(2)(b) as listed above, including §6106(2)(b)(15) regarding licenses/permits to carry a firearm recognized under Pennsylvania law without a formal reciprocity agreement.
For a list of the state licenses/permits recognized by the Attorney General under §6106(2)(b)(15), and for more information regarding the carrying of firearms in Pennsylvania, please visit www.attorneygeneral.gov.