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Gun Crimes and Other Weapons Offenses

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Today, some of the most harshly punished crimes involve guns.  With the aggressive prosecution of felony gun charges, you may face mandatory sentences and deadly weapon sentencing enhancements when you are charged with a firearms offense.  With the increased penalties, you may spend years in jail if you are convicted of a crime involving the use or possession of a gun.  

Although the US and Pennsylvania constitutions both protect the right to bear arms and the right to self-defense, you can still be charged with a gun or weapon offense. An experienced gun lawyer will know the situations where your Second Amendment protects your right to possess a firearm.

Pennsylvania also has laws that make even possessing certain weapons illegal.  These weapons include switchblades and brass-knuckles and it is possible to be convicted of a crime just for having an offensive weapon.  If you have been charged with a firearms or weapons offense, contact us for a consultation.

Bickerton Law is located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh.


black metal gun on white surface
Firearms charges and other weapons offenses in Pennsylvania | Somchai Kongkamsri (Pexels.com)

Gun Offenses in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, gun crimes can generally be classified as criminalizing the way that you are carrying, possessing, or transferring a firearm. Gun-related offenses generally criminalize the way you used a firearm. In this section, we’re going to cover offenses that have to do with possession, modification, sale, and transportation of a firearm.

Some of the most common gun offenses in Pa

•     Crimes Committed with a Firearm

•     Persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms

•     Firearms not to be carried without a license

•     Carrying loaded weapons other than firearms

•     Possession of firearm by minor

•     Possession of firearm with altered manufacturer’s number

•     Sale or transfer of firearms

•     Retail dealer required to be licensed

•     False evidence of identity

•     Altering or obliterating marks of identification

•     Certain bullets prohibited


Other Weapon Offenses

•     Possession of a Prohibited Offensive Weapon

Prohibited Offensive Weapons in Pennsylvania include: any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18 inches, firearm specifically made or modified for silent operation [using a silencer], blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger-knife, switchblade, stun gun, stun baton, Taser, or any electronic weapon or implement that inflicts serious bodily injury and serves no common lawful purpose.

Brandishing a weapon in Pennsylvania

What is brandishing a weapon?

There’s always a difference between merely possessing or having a firearm and brandishing it. Although some might define having a firearm tucked into a waistband or in a pocket to be brandishing, the word is actually a legal term of art that refers to presenting a weapon in a particular way.

If you read through the Pennsylvania crimes code, you might notice that there is no specific offense that clearly discusses brandishing a gun or other weapon. This doesn’t mean that it’s always legal to brandish a weapon in Pennsylvania. If a person is brandishing a weapon with the intent to cause another person to be in fear of immediate serious bodily injury without good cause, then the person can be charged with assault.

A note about firearms laws in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh’s city council has occasionally attempted to pass ordinances that would permit the city to regulate firearms. As of this writing, those ordinances have been struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as being unconstitutional and encroaching on an area of law that is reserved to the legislative branch at the state level.


Frequently Asked Questions about Gun Crimes and Weapons Offenses in Pennsylvania

Is it illegal to open-carry a firearm in Pennsylvania?

Outside of the city of Philadelphia, as long as a person is not otherwise ineligible to possess a firearm, open carry is permitted in most places. Be advised that certain locations including court houses and other government buildings do not permit the possession of firearms.

Can you carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle without a license?

In Pennsylvania, it is generally unlawful to possess a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle unless you have a valid concealed carry permit.

What makes someone a person not to possess a firearm under Pennsylvania law?

You may be deemed a person not to possess if you:

– Have previously been convicted of certain drug offenses

– Have previously been convicted of certain serious felonies

– Have previously been convicted of certain domestic violence offenses

– Are a fugitive from justice

– Have been involuntarily committed

If I am unable to clear NICS or am otherwise not allowed to possess a firearm under federal law, does that mean that I‘m a person not to possess under Pennsylvania law?

Not necessarily. Even though you may be federally prohibited from possessing a firearm, if you are a person not to possess, that means that you could actually be charged with a special crime for possessing that firearm. Keep in mind that there are certain people who aren’t permitted to possess, but they aren’t necessarily subject to criminal penalties for possessing that firearm.

How can I tell if a particular knife is a prohibited offensive weapon?

In any situation where you aren’t sure that the knife in question is legal, you should contact an experienced attorney or another firearms law expert for advice. As a general rule of thumb, any knife where the blade can be automatically engaged by push-button or other automatic means is likely going to be illegal.

What’s the standard for figuring out whether something is a prohibited offensive weapon or not?

If a particular item is a weapon but doesn’t have another common lawful purpose, then it will likely be considered to be a prohibited offensive weapon. For example, brass knuckles generally don’t have a common lawful purpose. They are considered to be tools that are primarily used as offensive weapons, not defensive weapons. 

What if I have an antique weapon that is considered to be a prohibited offensive weapon?

In certain situations, antiques may be subject to an exception under the law. But you should always consult with an experienced attorney to correctly identify whether the weapon in question qualifies for the exception.