Design Safety Standards for Handguns in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

Pennsylvania does not specifically regulate junk guns or unsafe firearms. According to research conducted by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (now Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence), however, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General may have the authority to regulate junk guns, as well as promulgate other firearms safety standards, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.1 For details, view the Center’s report, Targeting Safety.

See our Design Safety Standards for Handguns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. 73 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 201-3, 201-3.1. []

Mental Health Reporting in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.

Pennsylvania law requires the reporting of mental health information to NICS by the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”), stating:

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the Pennsylvania State Police shall, within 72 hours of receipt, disclose, electronically or otherwise, to the United States Attorney General or a designee, any record relevant to a determination of whether a person is disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) or (4) [prohibiting possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance or who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or involuntarily committed to any mental institution] or an applicable state statute and any record relevant to a determination of whether a person is not disqualified or is no longer disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) or (4) or an applicable state statute.2

Pennsylvania law also requires judges of the courts of common pleas to notify PSP, on a form developed by PSP, of:

  • The identity of any individual who has been adjudicated as an incompetent or as a mental defective or who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or who has been involuntarily treated as an inpatient or outpatient as described or federal or Pennsylvania law relating to firearms; and
  • Any finding of fact or court order related to any person prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm or ammunition as an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.3

The notification must be transmitted by the judge to PSP within seven days of the adjudication, commitment or treatment.4

The Pennsylvania law that governs the confidentiality of mental health records states that it does not restrict judges of the courts of common pleas, mental health review officers and county mental health and mental retardation administrators from disclosing information to PSP or PSP from disclosing information to any person, in accordance with these provisions.5

If a court grants relief from the Pennsylvania prohibition on firearm possession by persons adjudicated to be incompetent or involuntarily committed to a mental institution, a copy of the order must be sent to PSP within ten days. The order must include the name, date of birth and social security number of the individual.6

As of November 2013, Pennsylvania is a leader in the number of people identified in NICS because of mental illness.7

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks section and the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally.

  1. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4). []
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(f)(3). []
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(f). See also 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6109(i.1)(2), which requires “the judge of the court of common pleas, mental health review officer or county mental health and mental retardation administrator” to report to PSP persons adjudicated incompetent, or involuntarily committed for inpatient care and treatment, or upon involuntary treatment of a person as described in 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(4). See also 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7109(d) (same). []
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6109(i.1)(2), 6111.1(f)(2); 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7109(d). []
  5. 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7111. []
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(j). For PSP’s regulations regarding the reporting of mental health information, see 37 Pa. Code §§ 33.103(e), 33.120. []
  7. Everytown for Gun Safety, Closing the Gaps:  Strengthening the Background Check System to Keep Guns Away from the Dangerously Mentally Ill (May 2014), at http://everytown.org/article/closing-the-gaps/?source=fbno_closingthegaps&utm_source=fb_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=closingthegaps. []

Background Checks in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

The Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) serves as a state point of contact for NICS.1 Before a federally licensed importer, manufacturer or dealer transfers a firearm to an unlicensed person, the importer, manufacturer or dealer must request, by means of a telephone call, that PSP conduct a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history, and a mental health check.2 The licensee and the purchaser must provide such information as is necessary to accurately identify the purchaser, and the licensee must inspect photo identification of the potential purchaser or transferee.3 The licensee may not transfer the firearm until he or she receives a unique approval number from PSP for the purchase.4 The licensee must also collect from the buyer or transferee and forward to PSP a fee equivalent to the cost of conducting the background check, but not exceeding $2 per buyer or transferee, and issue a receipt containing the approval number to the purchaser or transferee.5

The dealer is prohibited from transferring the firearm if PSP has issued a “temporary delay” in order to investigate whether the person has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor that disqualifies the person from firearm possession.6

In addition, to sell a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun, a dealer must:

  • Require the purchaser to complete a purchase application, which includes a statement that the purchaser is the actual buyer of the firearm. The dealer must retain a copy of the application for at least 20 years, mail the original to PSP within 14 days of the sale, and provide one copy to the purchaser;
  • Record the approval number on the application; and
  • If the purchaser passes the background check, deliver the firearm to the purchaser securely wrapped and unloaded.7

Upon receipt of a request for a criminal history, juvenile delinquency history and mental health record check of the potential purchaser or transferee, PSP must immediately during the licensee’s call or by return call review PSP’s criminal history, fingerprint records, juvenile delinquency and mental health records to determine if the potential purchaser or transferee is prohibited from receipt or possession of a firearm under federal or state law.8 PSP must then inform the licensee making the inquiry either that the potential purchase or transfer is prohibited, or provide the licensee with a unique approval number.9

According to the 2013 Firearms Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State Police, PSP searches the following databases as part of a background check prior to approving a firearm transfer:

  • NICS;
  • PSP’s criminal history records;
  • PSP’s juvenile delinquency records;
  • PSP’s mental health records;
  • PSP’s protection from abuse file (see the Pennsylvania Domestic Violence and Firearms section); and
  • PSP’s wanted/missing person file.10

Pennsylvania law allows PSP to issue a temporary delay of the approval of the purchase or transfer of a firearm if the criminal history or juvenile delinquency background check indicates a conviction for a misdemeanor that PSP cannot determine is or is not related to domestic violence.11 Federal and Pennsylvania law prohibit firearm possession by persons convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors. See the Pennsylvania Domestic Violence and Firearms section for further information. During the temporary delay, PSP must investigate the conviction with courts and law enforcement or related institutions as necessary to determine whether the misdemeanor conviction involved domestic violence.12 PSP must conduct the investigation as expeditiously as possible.13

Law enforcement files concerning any child adjudicated delinquent for any criminal activity that would prohibit him or her from firearm possession must be recorded in the registry of PSP for the limited purpose of firearm background checks.14

For information about the reporting of mental health information for use in firearm purchaser background checks, see the Pennsylvania Mental Health Reporting section.

Pennsylvania law requires PSP to maintain a telephone number, operational seven days a week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., for purposes of responding to inquiries from licensees. PSP must also employ and train such personnel as necessary to expeditiously administer these requirements.15

A person who has been denied a firearms transfer based on a background check may seek review from PSP and/or appeal that decision to the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The person may further appeal an unfavorable decision by the Attorney General in court.16

Statistics regarding background checks for firearm transfers in Pennsylvania can be found in the 2013 Firearms Annual Report of the Pennsylvania State Police. For example, in 2013, more than 11,000 firearm transfers were denied due to prohibitions in the record of the person attempting to obtain a firearm.17

For a discussion of persons prohibited by federal or state law from possessing or purchasing a firearm, see the Pennsylvania Prohibited Purchasers Generally section.

In Pennsylvania, private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) may only sell a handgun to an unlicensed purchaser through a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer or county sheriff’s office, who must initiate a background check as described above.18 Private sellers are not required to initiate background checks when transferring a long gun in Pennsylvania, although federal and state laws prohibiting certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms still apply. See the Pennsylvania Private Sales section for more information.

See the section below for information regarding the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Pennsylvania.

  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6111, 6111.1; see also Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report (2014). []
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(3). As of February 3, 2014 an online interface is also available for dealers to initiate a background check. See Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report (2014). []
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(2), (3). []
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(4). []
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(a), (b). []
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(7). []
  7. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(a), (b); 37 Pa. Code § 33.111. For more information about the procedures that licensed dealers must follow to complete the sale, please see the administrative regulations of PSP available at 37 Pa. Code §§ 33.102-33.113. []
  8. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(b)(1)(i), (ii). []
  9. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(b)(1)(iii). []
  10. Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report 2-3 (2014). []
  11. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(7). []
  12. Id. []
  13. Id. []
  14. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(h)(2). []
  15. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(c). []
  16. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.1(e). []
  17. Pennsylvania State Police, 2013 Firearms Annual Report 1 (2014). []
  18. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(c), (f)(1)-(2); 37 Pa. Code § 33.111(g). []

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Firearm Prohibitions for Domestic Violence Misdemeanants

Only persons prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms as a result of a domestic violence misdemeanor are subject to Pennsylvania’s law prohibiting firearm possession by domestic violence misdemeanants.1

For information about temporary delays in the background process that allow the Pennsylvania State Police to determine whether a misdemeanor involved domestic violence, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks section.

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Protective Orders, and Relinquishment of Firearms When Domestic Violence Protective Orders Are Issued

Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone subject to a current domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm if the protective order provides for the relinquishment of firearms.2 A court issuing a domestic violence protective order is authorized, but not required, to order the abuser to relinquish all of his or her firearms, as well as ammunition used or threatened to be used in an incident of abuse.3 Any family member or current or former sexual or intimate partner who has been subject to abuse may seek such an order.4 If ordered to relinquish firearms or ammunition, the abuser must then relinquish his or her firearms and ammunition to law enforcement, a licensed dealer, or a third party who has received a special “safekeeping permit” from law enforcement.5 In the event an abuser decides to relinquish a firearm or ammunition to a dealer or a third party, the dealer or third party must provide the abuser with a receipt describing the firearm or ammunition and the abuser must provide this receipt to law enforcement.6

A plaintiff may also petition for a “temporary” order for protection from abuse if he or she alleges immediate and present danger of abuse to the plaintiff or minor children, in which case the court shall conduct an “ex parte” proceeding (without notice to the defendant).7 In an ex parte proceeding, the court may direct that the defendant temporarily relinquish to the sheriff any firearms or ammunition for the duration of the temporary order if the petition demonstrates abuse which involves a firearm or other weapon, or an immediate and present danger of such abuse (based on a list of factors).8

Pennsylvania law requires the State Police to maintain a registry of temporary and final protection orders, court-approved consent agreements and foreign protection orders.9 This registry indicates whether firearms or ammunition were ordered relinquished in each protection order or consent agreement. A court that has entered a protection order or consent agreement must make the information available to the Pennsylvania State Police within 24 hours of the order.10

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks and Pennsylvania Prohibited Persons sections.

Removal of Firearms at the Scene of a Domestic Violence Incident

Pennsylvania law grants a police officer a right of arrest without a warrant whenever he or she has probable cause to believe the defendant has committed involuntary manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats, or stalking against a “family or household member,” even if the offense did not take place in the officer’s presence, if the officer first observes recent physical injury to the victim or other corroborative evidence.11 Pennsylvania law requires the arresting police officer in this situation to seize all weapons used by the defendant in the commission of the offense.12

In addition, Pennsylvania law grants a police officer a right of arrest without a warrant whenever he or she has probable cause to believe the defendant has violated a protection order, even if the violation was not committed in the presence of the police officer.13 Subsequent to the arrest, the police officer must seize all firearms and ammunition used or threatened to be used during the violation of the protection order or during prior incidents of abuse, and any other firearms in the defendant’s possession.14

  1. 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(33), 922(g)(9); 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(9). The relationship need not be an element of the offense to meet these requirements, so long as the offense was committed by a person in any of the following relationships: (i) the current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the victim; (ii) a person with whom the victim shares a child in common; (iii) a person who cohabits with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or (iv) a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(9)(iv). []
  2. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(6). []
  3. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6108(a)(7). []
  4. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6102(a), 6108. []
  5. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6108-6108.3. []
  6. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6108.2(c), 6108.3. []
  7. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6107(b)(1). []
  8. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6107(b)(3). The factors to consider include whether the defendant has previously violated a protection from abuse order, whether past or present abuse to the plaintiff or any of the plaintiff’s minor children resulted in injury, whether the abuse occurred in public, and whether the abuse includes: i) threats of abuse or suicide; (ii) killing or threatening to kill pets; (iii) an escalation of violence; (iv) stalking or obsessive behavior; (v) sexual violence; or (vi) drug or excessive alcohol use. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6107(b)(3)(ii). []
  9. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(e). []
  10. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(e)(2), (4). []
  11. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2711(a). See 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6102 (defining “family or household member”). []
  12. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2711(b). []
  13. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6113. []
  14. Id. []

Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

Subject to certain exceptions, a person under the age of 18 may not possess or transport a firearm anywhere in Pennsylvania.1 This prohibition does not apply to a minor who is under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or an adult acting with the permission of the minor’s parent or legal guardian and the minor is engaged in lawful activity, such as safety training, target shooting, or organized firearm competition. In addition, the prohibition does not apply to a minor who is lawfully hunting or trapping in accordance with the Game and Wildlife Code.2

Any person who knowingly and intentionally delivers or provides a firearm to a minor commits a felony of the third degree and the firearm is subject to seizure by law enforcement.3 Pennsylvania law also prohibits any person from selling or leasing any deadly weapon or cartridge to any person under age 18.4

Federal age restrictions impose stricter limits.

See our Minimum Age to Purchase / Possess Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6110.1(a). []
  2. 34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 101 et seq. []
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6110.1(c), (d). []
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6302. This prohibition does not apply to hunting by minors in accordance with the Game and Wildlife Code, 34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 101 et seq. []

Prohibited Purchasers Generally in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

See our Prohibited Purchasers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.

Pennsylvania law provides that, subject to certain limited exceptions, no person shall possess a firearm if he or she has been convicted of:

  • Possessing, using, making, repairing, selling, or otherwise dealing in any “offensive weapon,” including machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, firearms with a silencer, and stun guns1;
  • An offense relating to organized crime;
  • Possessing a weapon on school property;
  • Murder;
  • Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter involving reckless use of a firearm;
  • Aggravated assault;
  • Assault by a prisoner;
  • Stalking;
  • Kidnapping or unlawful restraint;
  • Rape, involuntary intercourse, or aggravated indecent assault;
  • Luring a child into a motor vehicle;
  • Arson;
  • Causing or risking catastrophe;
  • Burglary;
  • Criminal trespass (at the level of second degree felony or higher);
  • Robbery or robbery of a motor vehicle;
  • Felony theft or felony extortion accompanied by threats of violence (if it is the second conviction for said felony);
  • Felony receiving stolen property;
  • Impersonating a law enforcement officer;
  • Intimidation of, or retaliation against, a witness or a victim;
  • Escape from “official detention”;2
  • Possession of weapons or implements for escape from a detention facility, correctional institution or mental hospital;
  • Riot;
  • Paramilitary training;
  • Possession of a firearm by a minor or corruption of minors;
  • An offense involving “facsimile weapons of mass destruction”; or
  • Unlawful sale or lease of weapons or explosives.3

Pennsylvania law also prohibits the following individuals from possessing a firearm:

  • A fugitive from justice;
  • A person who has been convicted of an offense under The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act;4
  • A person who has been adjudicated as incompetent or involuntarily committed to a mental institution;
  • An illegal alien;
  • A person adjudicated delinquent under federal or state law as a result of conduct which, if committed by an adult, would constitute specified offenses under Pennsylvania law for a period of 15 years or until the person is age 30;5
  • A person who is the subject of an active protection from abuse order that provides for the relinquishment of firearms; or
  • A person who is prohibited by federal law from possessing or acquiring a firearm because of a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.6

A person who has been convicted of driving under the influence on three or more separate occasions within a five-year period is prohibited from purchasing but not possessing a firearm.7

Pennsylvania law allows persons who are prohibited by Pennsylvania law from possessing firearms by virtue of a criminal conviction to apply to the court of common pleas of the county where the principal residence of the applicant is situated for relief from the firearm prohibition.8 The court must grant the relief if ten years have passed since the applicant’s most recent conviction.9 A person prohibited from possessing firearms because he or she was adjudicated incompetent or involuntarily committed to a mental institution may similarly petition a court for relief from disability, in which case the hearing must be closed.10 The court may grant such relief as it deems appropriate if it determines that the applicant may possess a firearm without risk to himself or herself or any other person.11

Note that federal law still considers a person to be prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms even if state law purports to have restored his or her firearms eligibility, unless the person has had all of his or her civil rights restored (not just his or her firearms eligibility).12

For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks section.

  1. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 908 (defining “offensive weapon” to mean any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed- off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.” []
  2. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5121 (defining “official detention” as arrest, detention in any facility for the custody of persons under charge or conviction of a crime or alleged or found to be delinquent, detention for extradition or deportation, or any other detention for law enforcement purposes). []
  3. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(b). []
  4. See 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 780-101 et seq. []
  5. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(7), (8). []
  6. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c). []
  7. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(c)(3). []
  8. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(d). A hearing must be held in open court, and the commissioner and the district attorney of the county where the application is filed and any victim or survivor of a victim of the offense upon which the disability was based may be parties to the proceeding. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(e). []
  9. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(e)(2). See also 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105.1 (purporting to restore firearms eligibility to persons convicted under certain laws previously on the books in Pennsylvania.). []
  10. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(f)(1), (3). []
  11. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(f)(1). []
  12. See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B), (33)(B)(ii); United States v. Essig, 10 F.3d 968 (3d Cir. 1993); United States v. Leuschen, 395 F.3d 155 (3d Cir. 2005); Pa. State Police v. Paulshock, 836 A.2d 110 (Pa. 2003). []

Multiple Purchases & Sales of Firearms in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

Pennsylvania has no law restricting sales or purchases of multiple firearms.

See our Restrictions on Multiple Purchases or Sales of Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

With the exception of persons subject to an active protection from abuse order, Pennsylvania law gives persons prohibited from possessing firearms a “reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days from the date of the imposition” of the firearm prohibition, in which to sell or transfer his or her firearms to another eligible person who is not a member of the prohibited person’s household.1

A policy of the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department provides that anyone under its supervision has 10 days to dispose of a weapon. This policy provides for surrender of firearms to the police department, sale to a licensed firearms dealer, or sale to an eligible person. After the person sells or transfers his or her firearms, he or she is required to provide his or her Probation or Parole officer with a receipt or record of sale.2

For laws governing the procedure for surrender of firearms by a person subject to a protective order, see the section entitled Domestic Violence and Firearms in Pennsylvania.

  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6105(a)(1)(i). []
  2. First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Adult Probation and Parole Department, Firearms Surrender Policy. []

Waiting Periods in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

Pennsylvania imposes no waiting period between the time of purchase and the actual physical transfer of a firearm.

See our Waiting Periods policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Registration of Firearms in Pennsylvania

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015

Under Pennsylvania law, firearm dealers must provide a record of the sale of handguns and certain other firearms to the Firearms Division of the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”), which maintains a permanent database of handgun sales.1 However, this database does not constitute a registry of gun ownership, and PSP maintains no record of long gun sales.2 Pennsylvania law specifically prevents any provision of its law from allowing any government or law enforcement agency to create a registry of firearm ownership.3 State law also requires PSP to destroy any application or record of sale of a long gun within 72 hours of the background check.4

In Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League v. Rendell, 860 A.2d 10 (Pa. 2004), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania interpreted these provisions to permit PSP to maintain a database of the purchasers of handguns, but not of long guns.5

In addition, Pennsylvania’s law regarding domestic violence contains a similar provision, stating that it does not allow any person or entity to create a registry of firearm ownership, although information may be retained to ensure compliance with these statutes and to document the return of firearms to persons no longer subject to protective orders.6 Such information is not subject to public disclosure.

See the section entitled Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Pennsylvania for further information about sales reporting requirements.

See our Registration of Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b). []
  2. Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League v. Rendell, 860 A.2d 10, 16 (Pa. 2004). []
  3. Pursuant to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111.4, “nothing in this chapter shall be construed to allow any government or law enforcement agency or any agent thereof to create, maintain or operate any registry of firearm ownership” within Pennsylvania. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(1.1)(v), relating to background checks for firearm transfers, provides that “no information on the application/record of sale provided pursuant to this subsection shall be retained as precluded by section 6111.4…by the Pennsylvania State Police either through retention of the application/record of sale or by entering the information onto a computer.” []
  4. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(1.1)(v). []
  5. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(b)(1.1)(v)’s requirement that applications and records of sale of long guns be destroyed within 72 hours does not apply to applications and records of sale of handguns. Rendell, 860 A.2d at 18. The database maintained by the PSP did not constitute a registry of firearm ownership because it only contained applications and records of sale. Id. at 22. []
  6. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6108.4 states that nothing in 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 6101-6122 (regarding domestic violence) shall be construed to allow any person or entity to create, maintain or operate a database or registry of firearm ownership. []