by: Stephen Sebald

At its simplest form, federal gun laws are derived from the Second Amendment, giving citizens the right to keep and bear arms. However as time has progressed, those laws have become increasingly complex, regulating not only ownership of certain types of guns under the National Firearms Act, but also denying citizens their right altogether if they meet certain criteria under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

The National Firearms Act places restrictions on not only possession, but also the sale of machine guns, silencers, and short-barreled shotguns. The limitations require anyone who may want to purchase one of those weapons mentioned to complete an extensive background check, register the piece with the ATF registry, and purchase a tax stamp for the manufacture of the device or firearm.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act restricts your ability to own a gun if you fit under one or more of the following:

  • If you were convicted of a crime punishable by being in prison for more than one year
  • Are a fugitive
  • Are addicted to, or illegally use any controlled dangerous substance (CDS)
  • A court ruled that you were mentally defective, or if you were committed to a mental institution
  • An illegal alien living in the U.S. unlawfully
  • Received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces
  • If a U.S. citizen, if you renounced your citizenship
  • If you are subject to a restraining order or convicted of domestic violence in any court of a misdemeanor

In contrast, however, the state of Pennsylvania has less stringent gun laws that don’t require citizens of the state to register their firearms. Instead, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System is used when a sale or transfer is made. If you legally possess a firearm and move into the state, you are not required to register or be entered into the system. When purchasing a firearm in state, the only requirement is a quick background check and a call to the state police to ensure there are no outstanding warrants or red flags. As soon as that passes, you can purchase your firearm and be on your way. Citizens only need a license to carry if they wish to have a concealed firearm or to keep it in a motor vehicle. There is an exception however; if you carry your firearm in the city of Philadelphia, you are required to have a license to carry. All other areas of the state allow you to openly carry your firearm.

There has been tension building between the increasingly strict gun laws enforceable at the federal level versus those in place within Pennsylvania. For years, representatives and legislators alike have been working toward keeping the federal restrictions out of the keystone state. As the national regulations continue to restrict the purchase and possession of certain types of firearms, Pennsylvania arms itself in defense against these limitations. In 2013, a representative went so far as to create a bill that would protect the firearm rights of the state’s citizens and would make any new federal regulation unenforceable within the state. The bill has yet to become a law and there has not been any progress since 2013 after it was referred to the Judiciary, but it stands for the intense desire that Pennsylvania has against the over-controlling federal gun laws.

If you have been charged with a firearm or gun offense under federal or state law, contact us at Sebald, Hackwelder, & Knox today. With experience in both sets of gun laws, we can provide you with a strong and strategic defense. Call today to discuss your situation at (814) 833-1987.