It is important to know your rights, legal obligations, and requirements involved with gun ownership and the gun charges in Philadelphia associated.
Whether considering owning a gun in Pennsylvania for the first time and getting a concealed carry permit, or you’ve been charged with gun possession in Philadelphia, PA this guide should help you make the right next steps.
What You Will Learn in This Guide on Gun Charges in Philadelphia:
- What Defines a Gun in Pennsylvania?
- Do You Need a License to Have a Gun?
- Gun Charges in Philadelphia vs. the Rest of Pennsylvania
- Can You Own a Gun Without a License to Carry?
- Understanding the Law of Gun Possession in Philadelphia
Do your research to understand the importance of proper gun safety techniques for both your health and the others in our community.
The laws regarding licensing and general gun charges in Pennsylvania can be difficult to navigate, and even a simple misunderstanding about the law can result in serious criminal charges.
It could even prevent you from ever lawfully possessing a firearm, or obtaining a license to carry in the future. Even if you have not been charged with a crime, if you are considering gun ownership, take the time to consult with a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney to avoid any problems.
What Defines a Gun or Firearm in Pennsylvania?
It may sound like a silly question, but under Pennsylvania Law the answer is not so clear.
Something that we might simply call a gun, could mean a rifle, pistol, or shotgun, and not every gun necessarily meets the legal definition of a “firearm” under Pennsylvania Law.
The Uniform Firearms Act, specifically 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 6102, defines a “firearm” based on the type of gun, the length of the barrel, and the overall length of the gun itself.
If someone has gun possession in Philadelphia without a license, it is not a crime unless that particular gun meets the legal definition of a “firearm.” Many rifles do not meet the legal definition of “firearm.”
However, some laws use a much broader definition of “firearm” such as 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 6105, which prohibits certain people from possessing or owning guns. Under section 6105, a “firearm” is any weapon designed to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, without regard for the length of the barrel or type of gun.
You can see how confusing this can be. Under the exact same chapter of Pennsylvania Law, there are two very different definitions for “firearm” and not knowing the difference can lead to gun charges in Philadelphia.
Do You Need a License to Have a Gun?
The simple answer is “it depends.” In Pennsylvania you do not need a license to OWN a gun, and it is lawful to keep a gun inside your home or business for personal protection.
However, if you want to carry a gun concealed on your person or in your car, that requires a license to carry “concealed.” 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 6106, makes it a felony to carry a firearm concealed on your person, or in a vehicle, without a valid and lawfully issued license.
In Pennsylvania, any citizen, at least 21 years old, may apply to the Sheriff of their county, or the Police Chief if you reside in Philadelphia, for a license to carry a firearm “concealed.”
Here is where someone usually says, “so does that mean if I don’t conceal it I can carry a gun out in the open?” This is sometimes referred to as “open carry” and some states allow citizens to carry a firearm in a holster open to the public view.
Pennsylvania Law is silent as to whether “open carry” is specifically permitted; so some people interpret that to mean that it is legal because it is not specifically prohibited.
However, as with many things in life, just because you can – doesn’t mean you should. The best practice if you are determined to carry a loaded firearm on your person is to take the necessary steps to obtain a concealed carry license.
Gun Charges in Philadelphia vs. the Rest of Pennsylvania
Before going any further, it is important to note that different laws apply in different places. Each state has different laws, and even within the same state different laws can apply in different counties, towns, or cities.
Philadelphia, for example, is legally referred to as a “city of the first class” and in fact is the only city of the first class in Pennsylvania. Some laws, such as 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 6108, only apply to conduct that occurs within the geographic boundaries of Philadelphia. Section 6108 prohibits persons from gun possession in Philadelphia upon the public streets or on public property unless they are licensed to carry, or exempt from licensing under law.
This means that in some cases a person with gun possession in Philadelphia could literally cross a street and be violating the law (assuming you crossed from another county into Philadelphia). Whether you are licensed or not, any time you travel with a firearm you should make certain you are familiar with the laws of any states or counties that you may travel through to avoid police abuse pretextual arrests.
Can You Own a Gun Without a License to Carry?
Generally, yes. You will be subjected to a background check and a waiting period before you can take a gun home, but you can buy a gun and transport it to your home, business, or shooting range so long as it is unloaded.
Some convictions for certain offenses prevent a person from owning, possessing, or carrying a firearm in Pennsylvania. Many of those crimes will seem obvious, like murder, assault, or robbery – crimes that are typically considered “violent” offenses, but it may surprise you to know that many non-violent offenses including some misdemeanors could prevent you from lawfully owning a firearm.
However, you are also prohibited from possessing a gun if you have had three Driving Under the Influence(DUI) convictions within a 5 year period. If you think about it, that makes sense too, because lawmakers perhaps don’t want a habitual drinker or drug user to have access to a gun if the person is likely to be under the influence, but this is not as obvious as someone with a “violent” offense conviction. Under 6105, a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm, is also ineligible for a license to carry.
Understanding the Law of Gun Possession in Philadelphia
As you can see gun laws in Pennsylvania can be very complicated, and it is very possible for a person to wind up in hot water if he or she doesn’t understand the law and can fall victim to police perjury (when cops lie). Contact an experienced gun attorney in Philadelphia like Mr. Link to get personalized service for your case.
In Pennsylvania, being charged with a Violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) is serious business. Depending on the circumstances the penalty ranges from probation or a fine, to up to 10 years in prison for certain offenses under the Act.
In Philadelphia, due to the number of crimes committed with guns, it is not uncommon for bail to be set so high people can spend months in jail waiting for their case to get to trial, because they simply cannot afford the bail. Yet, a better understanding of the law or hiring a professional could lead to diversion program options in Philadelphia.
Are You Currently Facing Gun Charges in Philadelphia?
If you or a loved one have gun charges in Philadelphia, it is important that you get a qualified criminal defense attorney involved EARLY in the case to make sure your rights are protected, insure that you spend the least amount of time in jail as possible, and if the case is going to go all the way to trial – to get well prepared.
R. Patrick Link is a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney who has many years experience dealing with gun cases on both sides of the courtroom. Call 267-800-2553 immediately for a free consultation.