How Pennsylvania Concealed Carry Works
Given it’s a “shall issue” state, county law enforcement must issue Pennsylvania concealed carry permits to applicants who meet all the required criteria.
It’s a third-degree felony — or a first-degree misdemeanor if one is qualified for a license and commits no other violation — to carry a concealed firearm without a permit in this state outside one’s “place of abode” or fixed place of business.
How to Apply for a Pennsylvania Concealed Carry Permit
State residents may apply for the Pennsylvania concealed carry permit, which is valid for five years, with their local police department. Nonresidents may apply to any Pennsylvania county licensing authority, but they must already have a license to carry from their own home state.
But hold on, is it really necessary for everyone to apply for a permit? Well, according to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6106. (2) (b), there are some exceptions:
- Law enforcement officers, constables, sheriffs, policemen and prison or jail wardens
- Active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces (that service is appreciated, folks)
- Members of organizations qualified to purchase and receive handguns from the U.S. or Pennsylvania
- Going to and from (must be unloaded during travel), and while engaged in, target shooting with rifles, pistols or revolvers
- U.S. officers and employees duly authorized
- Agents, messengers and employees of common carriers, banks or business firms while conducting duties that require protection of money and valuables (though, they will require certification through the Lethal Weapons Training Act)
- Those in the business of manufacturing, repairing or dealing in firearms, as well as their agent or representative
- Anyone traveling with an unloaded firearm in a secure wrapper from a place of purchase to their home or business; to and back home from a place of repair, sale or appraisal; from home or a business to another home or business; to a firearms instruction course; to recover stolen property (relating to Pennsylvania State Police); to a place where one has been directed to relinquish ownership; or traveling upon return of a relinquished firearm or to a location of safekeeping
- Those who are hunting, fishing or taking furbearers — and are appropriately licensed to do so
- Those training dogs during the appropriate season
Those are only a few of the exceptions. As this isn’t formal legal advice, make sure to read up on all the relevant statutes pertaining to the matter.
When it comes to actually applying, submit the standardized application (which is available online) in person to the respective county law enforcement with a few key materials on hand.
- A 2x2 inch passport style color photo
- A $20 money order
- A valid Pennsylvania ID or state ID
- Two forms of proof of residence
- For those previous in the Armed Forces, a copy of discharge papers (DD-214)
- If the applicant is foreign born, naturalization papers
- If a registered alien, their green card and previous three monthly utility bills of the same type in consecutive order
- Current and expired permits (if renewing or applying as a nonresident)
The application requires two references (not family members). If there aren’t two listed, the application is likely to be declined.
"Fingerprints aren’t needed in most counties, but the applicant should double check with their county issuing authority -- Philadelphia, for example, may interview and fingerprint their applicants.
That interview is an interesting portion of the application process. Regardless of whether or not the applicant's issuing authority does interview, license issuing authorities screen applicants’ “character and reputation” to determine whether or not they would be a danger to public safety.
The applicant will be subject to a standard background check through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS). The applicant will be screened for about 38 types of felony convictions and nine different criteria related to mental health adjudication, other criminal offenses, imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, alcohol abuse, controlled substance abuse, citizenship and other types of prohibitors.
Unlike other states, there is no training requirement in Pennsylvania.
Provided all the paperwork is in order and the background check is crystal clear, the investigation should be done within 45 days and the license should be issued in due time."
Be sure to renew it when the issuing authority sends the renewal notice at least 60 days prior to the license expiration date.
Beyond applying and qualifying for the Pennsylvania concealed carry license, there are other topics to consider, like location restrictions and reciprocity agreements.
Pennsylvania Concealed Carry Reciprocity and Location Restrictions
Pennsylvania concealed carry reciprocity was established in 1995 when the Pennsylvania General Assembly granted the Attorney General the authority to enter into reciprocity agreements.
These agreements grant those with a permit in Pennsylvania to travel with concealed firearms in qualifying states and vice versa.
Pennsylvania has six types of reciprocity.
- Formally written reciprocity agreements (around 18 states currently)
- States with statutory reciprocity — in this case no need for a formal written agreement
- Unilateral reciprocity
- “Application states” where Pennsylvanians can apply for another state’s permit (about eight states have this designation)
- States that do not require a permit or license
- States that do not extend reciprocal privileges to Pennsylvanians
Sometimes it seems like a stiff wind will change reciprocity agreements. Because of how often they can change, stay up to date with a CCW reciprocity map. It’s important to note that once a Pennsylvanian travels across the state line with their handgun, they’re subject to the other state’s respective laws. Be sure to study up before traveling.
Within Pennsylvania there are also a few other location restrictions, including, but not limited to:
- Elementary and secondary school zones, grounds and buildings (but Commonwealth v. Goslin outlines some exceptions for licensed individuals and for those who have an exception to the licensing requirements)
- Court facilities
- Federal facilities and prohibited locations
- Locations where administration regulations could apply (like bars, places of worship, etc.)
Again, these aren’t necessarily all the prohibited locations. It never hurts to call a law enforcement officer to verify any concerns about location restrictions.
Beyond all these laws and procedures, numbers can play a big role in how to understand the culture of firearms in this state.
Pennsylvania Concealed Carry Statistics Provide Context
Pennsylvania concealed carry statistics are mandated to be reported annually and provided to the public.
While these don’t provide personal information of applicants, they do illustrate the overarching schema of guns in the Commonwealth.
In no particular order, here are a few important (relatively speaking) stats, according to the 2015 Pennsylvania State Police Firearms Annual Report:
- There were 989,298 background checks completed by PICS for licensed firearm dealers, sheriffs and law enforcement.
- 15,176 of those background checks were denied, with 4,590 denials being challenged by the applicant and 1,402 (31 percent) of those challenges reversed
- The PICS background check scours 2,784,977 Pennsylvania criminal history and juvenile records, 758,193 mental health records, 109,726 wanted persons, and federal files with 71 million criminal history records and 20 million records of other prohibited persons
- When attempting to purchase a firearm, 153 individuals were arrested on location because their background check yielded warrant information.
- In 2015 there were 2,661 active Pennsylvania licensed firearm dealers
- About 755,764 firearms were reported purchased or privately transferred in Pennsylvania — 421,811 handguns and 333,953 long guns
- The 2015 Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report showed 10,698 violent crimes committed involving use of a firearm
- About 68 percent of the total 890 reported homicides were with firearms, 42 percent of the 12,849 robberies were with firearms and about 21 percent of the 21,887 reported aggravated assaults were with firearms
- An 8 percent increase in licenses (237,244) were issued in 2015 from the prior year
About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.