Gun laws are a hot topic in politics today and the matter is affecting gun owners around the country. Over the years, debates surrounding the meaning, extent, and nature of the Second Amendment have resulted in a plethora of complex federal, state, and local gun control laws that most owners can hardly keep up with. It may seem counterintuitive, but with the dangers posed by certain weapons, you can’t simply borrow or buy a gun from a friend, nor can you take a hunting trip to New York. If you don’t follow the specific federal and state gun regulations applicable to gun owners in Pennsylvania, you may find yourself subject to serious felony charges that may put you in prison and prevent you from ever owning a firearm in the future.
Gun crimes are very serious, and when charged with a violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) there are often mandatory sentences if you are convicted. Our lawyers understand the different charges associated with gun possession and VUFA and are experienced in defending these matters in criminal court in Pennsylvania. If you have been charged with gun possession or a violation of the uniform firearms act, contact a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney at The Zeiger Firm. Our attorneys understand the differences between these crimes and will zealously defend you.
Overview of Pennsylvania Firearms and License Laws
Both the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution make it clear that citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. In Pennsylvania, citizens are specifically endowed with the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and the Commonwealth. Accordingly, Pennsylvania is considered a relatively pro-gun state with limited restrictions on gun ownership and possession. Under Pennsylvania law, a firearm is defined by barrel size as any pistol or revolver with a barrel length of less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches, any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. There are certain means by which the length of the barrel is determined, and if you are cited for having too long of a barrel length, then you should immediately speak with the attorneys at the Zeiger Firm to discuss whether law enforcement was using the proper standards of measurement.
In Pennsylvania, you are permitted to purchase and own a firearm, subject to the exceptions as explained below, without a license provided the firearm does not leave your home or fixed place of business. You may not, however, carry a firearm in a vehicle or concealed on your person without a valid license. If you would not otherwise be eligible for a license and you carry a concealed firearm or transport it in a vehicle, you have committed a felony of the third degree. This is punishable by up to 7 years in prison on its own, not to mention those additional charges that would apply if you used the firearm in the commission of a crime. On the other hand, if you would have been eligible to get a license and simply didn’t do so because you either didn’t have time or were only planning on keeping your firearm at home, this is only considered a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If you have been charged with unlawful possession or transportation of a firearm, the attorneys at the Zeiger Firm can argue that you qualified to carry and, as such, are not subject to felony charges. The following is a list of additional exceptions to the license requirement:
- Law enforcement officials, including jail wardens and deputies;
- Members of the armed forces or national guard when on duty;
- Members of an organization authorized to purchase or receive firearms from the Federal or State government;
- If you are traveling to or from target practice and the firearm is not loaded;
- Officers or employees of the United States authorized to carry, i.e., U.S. Marshals or FBI agents;
- Security guards as long as the firearm is required for the discharge of their duties;
- Any person who is engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing, or dealing firearms as a part of his or her usual course of business;
- If you just bought the firearm and it is not loaded and it is wrapped and you are carrying it back to your home, or you are carrying it for repair, to sell, or the be appraised, or between your home and place of business;
- If you have a license to hunt or fish and you are actually in the process of doing so;
- You are training dogs;
- You have a license to carry in another state;
- You have an expired license to carry that is less than six months expired and you are eligible to renew;
- Those lawfully engaged in the transportation of firearms; and
- Those “otherwise” qualified.
As you can tell, there are an extensive amount of exceptions written into the Pennsylvania code. The police might not be aware of each exception if you are arrested or charged with carrying a firearm without a license, but attorney Brian Zeiger and the attorneys at the Zeiger Firm are well aware of each and every exception that applies to this charge. Accordingly, they will analyze every area of law to see if you qualify under the statutory exceptions, and they may be able to get your charges dropped early in the litigation process before reputation are ruined.