Pennsylvania is considered an “open carry” state, which means that it is generally legal for an adult to openly carry a firearm without a permit. In fact, according to Section 21 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution, every citizen has a right “…to bear arms in defence [sic] of themselves and the State...” (Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. Art. I § 21.)
However, Pennsylvania’s open carry policy does not mean that everyone may have a gun, or that you may always carry a gun wherever you like. While you may carry a concealed weapon in your own house or fixed place of business without a permit, you are required to obtain a special concealed carry permit to carry a concealed weapon under most other circumstances. (18 Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. § 1290.4.) For more information, see Gun Permit Laws in Pennsylvania.
The following sections explain who may not have a gun, and the circumstances or situations when carrying a gun is illegal.
People Who May Not Carry a Gun in Pennsylvania
The following individuals are prohibited from carrying a weapon (open or concealed) in Pennsylvania.
- someone with a character and reputation such that the individual would likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety
- individuals convicted of certain drug or controlled substance crimes, or who are addicted to (or unlawful users of) illegal drugs
- people who have been adjudicated as incompetent or who have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- people who have been adjudicated delinquent within the past ten years
- habitual drunkards
- convicted felons
- non-U.S. citizens who are in the U.S. illegally
- people who have been dishonorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. armed forces
- fugitives from justice
- people convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol on three or more separate occasions within a five year period
- people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes
(18 Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. § 6105 & 6109.)
Situations or Circumstances Where Carrying a Gun is Illegal
The following rules govern when you may not carry a gun in Pennsylvania. They do not apply to peace officers, members of the armed services when on active duty, agents and messengers engaged in duties requiring them to protect money or valuables, weapons merchants or repair people, or people training dogs or engaged in hunting with a valid hunting permit.
- Unless you are in your house or at your fixed place of business, you may not carry a concealed firearm in your vehicle, or on (or near) your body unless you have a special concealed carry permit. (18 Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. § 6106.)
- You may not carry a firearm in a court facility. (18 Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. § 913.)
- You may not carry a weapon onto school property. (18 Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. § 912.)
Penalties for Gun Carry Violations
In Pennsylvania, it is a third degree felony to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000, up to seven years in prison, or both. (18 Penn. Rev. Stat. and Con. Stats. § 1101.)
It is a second degree felony for a person prohibited from carrying a weapon to do so. Penalties include a fine of up to $25,000, up to ten years in prison, or both. (18 Penn. Stat. and Con. Stat. § 6105.)
It is a misdemeanor in the first degree to carry a firearm into a court facility. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both. (18 Penn. Rev. Stat. and Con. Stats. § 913.)
Getting Legal Help
The penalties for violating gun carry laws are serious. If you have any questions about whether you are allowed to carry a gun in Pennsylvania, or if you are facing charges for a gun violation, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.