Pennsylvania has strict rules about carrying firearms, at least related to handguns. Knowing how to legally carry firearms in a car is important if you plan to buy, sell, or use a weapon recreationally away from home. Whether you have a car, truck, or even a motorhome, it is imperative that you follow the laws to the letter to avoid firearms charges.
If you received a citation for violating these rules, you may want to connect with an attorney who knows how to build a defense and help you reduce or eliminate any potential consequences related to the traffic stop.
What Are the Car Carry Rules in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania considers having a handgun in your car “carrying a concealed weapon.” This falls under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6106. This statute makes it a Third-Degree Felony to carry a concealed weapon unless you have a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms (LTCF) to do so. While it is perfectly legal to drive in many states with a handgun, rifle, or another firearm in your vehicle regardless of your carry permit status, this is not the case in Pennsylvania.
There are exceptions, however. They include:
- Non-NFA regulated long guns (unloaded)
- Traveling to or from target shooting (and nowhere else)
- Officers or employers of the United States authorized to carry
- Bank or business employees tasked with protecting money or valuables
- Firearm manufacturers, repair workers, or dealers transporting them for business
- Moving the firearm from one home or business to another (with no stops)
- Taking the gun in for repair or following purchase (without deviating from that plan)
- When hunting or fishing, with a valid license
- To or from training dogs during the regular season
- If you have a valid carry permit from another state
- If you previously had a permit to carry within the past six months and could renew
It is important to know that these rules only apply to unloaded firearms with the cartridges or ammunition stored away from the gun. The laws that deal with loaded firearms fall under 34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2503(b)(3).
When Responsible Gun Owners Get Arrested for These Violations
Many people who face charges related to firearms do not realize how seriously Pennsylvania takes these rules. For example, under 18 PA.C.S. § 6106(b)(4), the commonwealth allows you to carry your unloaded gun while going to or from target practice.
However, the issue occurs when you need to stop by the grocery store or decide to run to a restaurant–or even a drive-thru–on your way home. When this occurs, you are violating the statute. You no longer meet the exception that allows you to travel in your vehicle with an LTCF.
Instead, you must go directly to the shooting range or other target practice location and return home without stopping. You could face arrest and conviction if you do not. While you might argue for reducing your sentence, this could also become a costly headache and bring a lot of unwanted stress. Stopping for a hamburger just is not worth it.
How Do I Avoid This Situation?
The best way to ensure you do not face charges if you plan to travel often with your gun in your vehicle is to apply for and receive an LTCF. This is also the best idea if you live in a motorhome or plan to carry frequently while using your travel trailer. You have a right to protect your home, but there is a lot of gray area in Pennsylvania about how to classify motorhomes in these cases.
If you have a valid LTCF and make a stop on the way home or keep a handgun in your motorhome, you will not have to worry about concealed carry charges. Instead, you meet an exception under 18 PA.C.S § 6106(b)(11) and can make any stops you want.
When Do I Need an Attorney for a PA Firearms Violation?
If you face charges after being stopped for a firearms violation in Pennsylvania, you should consider meeting with a criminal defense attorney familiar with these laws. They may be able to build a case that supports a more favorable outcome. With a strong defense, it may be possible to:
- Never face charges
- Get the charges dropped
- Get a reduced sentence
- Retain your rights to own and carry firearms
Speak With Our Team Today at McKenzie Law Firm, P.C.
If you were stopped with a gun in Montgomery County, PA, or a nearby area, McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., may be able to help. We understand how the Pennsylvania firearms laws work and how to help our clients navigate any legal consequences they may face because of them.
Call (610) 680-7842 to connect with our firm today.