Unveiling Concealed Carry Laws in Pennsylvania
The right of a person to carry a concealed firearm on their person or in a vehicle is conditional. A concealed carry license is necessary to exercise this right in Pennsylvania. Any individual over the age of 21 can submit a one-page application for a concealed carry license with the sheriff of the county in which he or she resides. However, the sheriff may and sometimes does reject this application. But what criteria can a sheriff legally use to determine whether to issue a concealed carry license, and what can you do if you believe you were wrongfully denied one?
First, the sheriff looks to the language of the application itself, which contains the following statement that the applicant must verify:
"I have never been convicted of a crime that prohibits me from possessing or acquiring a firearm under Federal or State law. I am of sound mind and have never been committed to a mental institution. I hereby certify that the statements contained herein are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that, if I knowingly make any false statements herein, I am subject to penalties prescribed by law. I authorize the sheriff, or his designee, or, in the case of first class cities, the chief or head of the police department, or his designee, to inspect only those records or documents relevant to information required for this application. If I am issued a license and knowingly become ineligible to legally possess or acquire firearms, I will promptly notify the sheriff of the county in which I reside or, if I reside in a city of the first class, the chief of police of that city."
Most disqualified individuals do not obtain a license due either to a relevant criminal conviction or an involuntary mental health commitment. These are well-established grounds both in Pennsylvania law and federal law for prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm at all, not to mention carrying a concealed weapon. At Scaringi Law, we regularly examine these denials for misapplication of the law or for grounds for a mental health expungement.
However, the sheriff’s authority to restrict a concealed carry license is actually much greater in scope than the well-established laws which prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. Per Section 6109 of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act, a concealed carry license shall not be issued to – and, if one was already issued, should be revoked from – any of the following:
- (i) An individual whose character and reputation is such that the individual would be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.
- (ii) An individual who has been convicted of an offense under the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No.64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
- (iii) An individual convicted of a crime enumerated in section 6105.
- (iv) An individual who, within the past ten years, has been adjudicated delinquent for a crime enumerated in section 6105 or for an offense under The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
- (v) An individual who is not of sound mind or who has ever been committed to a mental institution.
- (vi) An individual who is addicted to or is an unlawful user of marijuana or a stimulant, depressant or narcotic drug.
- (vii) An individual who is a habitual drunkard.
- (viii) An individual who is charged with or has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year except as provided for in section 6123 (relating to waiver of disability or pardons).
- (ix) A resident of another state who does not possess a current license or permit or similar document to carry a firearm issued by that state if a license is provided for by the laws of that state, as published annually in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of the Department of the Treasury under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(19) (relating to definitions).
- (x) An alien who is illegally in the United States.
- (xi) An individual who has been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions.
- (xii) An individual who is a fugitive from justice. This subparagraph does not apply to an individual whose fugitive status is based upon nonmoving or moving summary offense under Title 75 (relating to vehicles).
- (xiii) An individual who is otherwise prohibited from possessing, using, manufacturing, controlling, purchasing, selling or transferring a firearm as provided by section 6105.
- (xiv) An individual who is prohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm under the statutes of the United States.
Thus, the sheriff has the authority to reject your application for a license to carry or to revoke a license based on extraordinarily broad grounds, including, for example, simply an allegation that you have a “bad reputation” or are a “habitual drunkard.” And the sheriff alone has the authority to determine, in his or her personal opinion, whether an allegation of “bad reputation” is sufficient. These are extraordinary powers directly affecting your Constitutional right to bear arms, and they must be wielded carefully.
This is, unfortunately, not always the case.
Thankfully, the sheriff is not the final authority in this process. When a sheriff makes a questionable call regarding one of the above grounds, there is a process for appealing this determination to the Court of Common Pleas so that you can have your side of the story heard. This appeal must be brought within 30 days of the sheriff’s decision. When challenged, the sheriff has the burden to show the court that the denied party truly falls into one of the above categories and should be denied the right to carry a concealed weapon.
If you believe you have been wrongly denied a license to carry firearms, contact Scaringi Law today at 717 657 7770!