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Carry a Firearm without a License

A License to Carry Firearms is issued to carry a firearm concealed on one’s person or in a vehicle within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If a person carries a firearm concealed on or about his person except in his place of abode or fixed place of business without a valid and lawfully issued license, then the person can be charged with a felony in the third degree.

If a person who is otherwise eligible to possess a valid license under this chapter, but carries a firearm in any vehicle, or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license and has not committed any other criminal violation, then the offense can be charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Under 18 Pa. C.S. Section 6106(b), the statutory scheme includes exceptions that operate as affirmative defenses that can be raised at trial. To lawfully carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania, a person must either:

Attorney in West Chester, PA for the Unlicensed Firearm Carry Law

If you were charged with carrying a firearm without a license, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm to discuss your case and learn about important defenses that might apply. Attorney Michael Skinner represents clients on a wide range of weapon and firearm charges in Chester County and Delaware County, PA. 

Michael Skinner has offices conveniently located in both West Chester in Chester County, PA. Call today to find out more about the elements of the offense, ways to avoid the potential penalties and important defenses that can be raised both pre-trial and at trial.

Elements of Carrying a Firearm without a License

The elements of carrying a firearm without a license include:

Definitions Related to the Carrying a Firearm without a License

Under Pennsylvania’s statutory scheme for weapon offenses, the term “firearm” is defined to include:

Under Pennsylvania law, to be a “firearm,” the specific object charged must either be operable, that is, capable of firing a projectile, or, if inoperable, that the defendant had under [his] [her] control the means to convert the object into one capable of firing a shot. A person may, if he or she chooses, infer that the object was an operable firearm from the way it appears and feels. (See Commonwealth v. Layton, 307 A.2d 843 (Pa. 1973).)

“Operability” remains an element for offenses under Section 6106. (See Commonwealth v. Gainer, 7 A.3d 291 (Pa.Super. 2010), app. denied, 23 A.3d 1055 (Pa. 2011).) Operability is an element of the crime even though it is not an element for offenses under Section 6105 due to the particular definition of "firearm" contained in section 6105(i). (See Commonwealth v. Thomas, 988 A.2d 669 (Pa.Super. 2009), app. denied, 4 A.3d 1054 (Pa. 2010).) The Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Criminal Jury Instructions for §6106 were last revised in March 2014.

Penalties for Carrying a Firearm without a License

Under Section 6106(a)(2) of the statute, the offense is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree if the defendant was “otherwise eligible to possess a valid license under this chapter but … carries a firearm concealed on or about his person, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued a license and has not committed any other criminal violation.”

The courts have wrestled with whether this statutory scheme created two offenses (one of which was a lesser included offense of the other) or alternatively, whether it created a single offense to be normally graded as a felony of the third degree with a provision that, at sentencing, the judge could reduce the grade upon finding certain ameliorating factors. (See Commonwealth v. Bavusa, 832 A.2d 1042, 1050-55 (Pa. 2003).)

The Courts have held that construction of the statute as one offense avoided the argument that permitting consideration of these “sentencing factors” would violate the rule of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). Instead, the courts have reasoned that the amendment did not alter the statutory maximum but merely provided for misdemeanor grading of the same conduct if certain ameliorating circumstances were present.

For an affirmative defense, the defendant has the burden of proving to a preponderance of the evidence that this exception applies. A "preponderance of the evidence" means that it is more likely than not that the exception applies.

Affirmative Defenses to Carrying a Gun without a License

Pennsylvania law provides an important affirmative defense when the defendant asserts that he or she was entitled to carry the firearm in question due to an exception in the statute. Those exceptions are listed in Section 6106(b). The defenses are deemed to be affirmative defenses the defendant must raise and prove. The Commonwealth is not required to negation of the exceptions as an element of the prosecutor’s case-in-chief. (Commonwealth v. Lopez, 565 A.2d 437 (Pa. 1989); Commonwealth v. Walton, 529 A.2d 15 (Pa.Super. 1987).)

The exceptions listed in Section 6106(b) include:

    • From the place of purchase to his home or place of business; or

    • To a place of repair, sale or appraisal; or

    • Back to his home or place of business; or

    • In moving from one place of abode or business to another; or

    • From his home to a vacation or recreational home or dwelling or back; or

    • To recover stolen property under section 6111.1(b)(4) (relating to Pennsylvania State Police); or

    • To a place of instruction intended to teach the safe handling, use, or maintenance of firearms; or

    • Back or to a location to which the person has been directed to relinquish firearms under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108 (relating to relief); or

    • Back upon return of the relinquished firearm or to a licensed dealer's place of business for relinquishment pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.2 (relating to relinquishment for consignment sale, lawful transfer or safekeeping); or

    • Back upon return of the relinquished firearm or to a location for safekeeping pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.3 (relating to relinquishment to third party for safekeeping) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm
    • The state provides a reciprocal privilege for individuals licensed to carry firearms under section 6109; and

    • The Attorney General has determined that the firearm laws of the state are similar to the firearm laws of this Commonwealth

Additional Resources

Carrying Firearms in PA — Visit the website of the Pennsylvania State Police to find firearms information on carrying firearms in Pennsylvania without a license. Learn more about who can apply for a Pennsylvania License to Carry or a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit. Find the most recent rules on Firearm Reciprocity Agreements, including instructions on downloading a list of all the states that currently have reciprocity agreements with Pennsylvania along with a copy of the actual reciprocity agreements. All licenses issued by reciprocity states are recognized in Pennsylvania. Also find a list of states that allow individuals to carry concealed weapons in their state as long as they have a valid concealed weapons permit from their home state, regardless of whether or not there is a reciprocity agreement with that state.

Firearm Reciprocity Agreements in Pennsylvania — Visit the website of the Attorney General to find a list of the state licenses/permits recognized by the Attorney General under § 6106(2)(b)(15). Also find more information regarding the carrying of firearms in Pennsylvania.


Finding an Attorney for Carrying a Firearm without a License

If you were arrested for carrying a firearm without a license, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Related charges can include the unlawful sale of a firearm, carrying a firearm without a license, and possession of a firearm by a person not to possess.

If you were charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor offense under Section 6105, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Michael Skinner is an experienced firearms and weapons attorney in West Chester, PA. He represents clients throughout Chester County and Delaware County, PA. Michael Skinner has offices in Delaware County, PA. Call Attorney Michael Skinner today to discuss your case.

Call (610) 436-1410 today to find out what you need to do after being charged with this serious offense in order to protect all of your rights.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, February 3, 2016.

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