American citizens have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, some people do not realize there still are restrictions on who can possess firearms and what types of weapons are considered legal. People who violate these laws still could face weapons charges.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Citizens and legislators often debate the intent behind the amendment, which says the purpose of bearing arms is to create a “well regulated militia” for self defense.

A 2008 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case changed the way some firearms and weapons are handled. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court determined handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment and struck down portions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975.

Local, state and federal legislative bodies, however, still possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. This means certain people may not be allowed to own firearms and other weapons still could be considered illegal.

Weapons offenses and penalties in Pennsylvania are classified under the Uniform Firearms Act, codified in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 6101 – 6187. These offenses could include possession of a prohibited weapon, prohibited firearm possession and unlawful sale or transfer of a firearm.

For instance, a person could be charged with possession of a prohibited weapon if he or she is found to be in possession of a bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, firearm made for concealment or silent discharge, metal knuckles or stun gun.

The charge generally is a first-degree misdemeanor, which could carry up to five years in prison, fines up to $10,000 or both.  There are some exceptions to the offense, such as if the defendant is a police firearms expert who is operating in the course of business.

Additionally, some people in Pennsylvania may not be allowed to legally possess firearms, including those who have been convicted of driving under the influence, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 6105. A person also could be restricted if he or she is convicted of:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Robbery
  • Possessing prohibited weapons

If a person is convicted of one of those offenses, he or she would not be able to own or possess a firearm. Doing so could lead to second-degree felony charging with up to 10 years in prison, $25,000 in fines or both.

Additionally, it is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania to sell or transfer a firearm to a purchaser if the person has not properly applied, before the statutory waiting period has ended or to a person who is prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm. If you are facing weapons charges, contact a West Chester criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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