License to Carry Firearms in Pennsylvania

In a year of uncertainty, many Pennsylvanians made a decision to get a License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”) to protect themselves and their loved ones. In the wake of the pandemic and the riots this summer, the number of LTCF applications skyrocketed. For those who do not currently have a license, the process is less complicated than one might think.

How to Obtain a License to Carry Firearms

The procedures and requirements for acquiring a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms are set out in 18 Pa. C.S. § 6109. The process is completed with the county sheriff or the Chief of Police through the Gun Permit Unit in a city of the first class (Philadelphia).

The applicant is required to fill out an application and tender the $20 fee. Pennsylvania residents must apply in their county of residence. For non-residents, applications can be submitted in any county that will accept it (be sure to call ahead of time). Also keep in mind that a person is ineligible for a non-resident LTCF unless they have a license in their home state. This usually poses a major problem for residents of New Jersey and New York.

With the information provided on the application form, the sheriff’s office (or Gun Permit Unit) will run an instant background check (“PICS”). Additionally, the sheriff’s investigation will determine whether “the applicant’s character and reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety,” and ensure that the applicant is otherwise eligible for a License to Carry Firearms. The issuing authority has up to 45 days to approve or deny the LTCF.

Changes Amidst a Pandemic

Due to the pandemic, some counties have changed their procedures.

Bucks County, for example, has begun accepting online applications. In other places, such as Philadelphia, the issuing authority has decided to accept applications by appointment only. This is a problem, because Philadelphia has scheduled people for an appointment over a year into the future when it is clear that the statute intends to limit the process to 45 days. There is a lawsuit pending as to whether this practice can continue.

The LTCF renewal process is very similar to the initial application process. By law, the issuing authority is mandated to send the licensee an application for renewal “at least 60 days prior to the expiration.”

There is also a special extension for those who serve in the military:

[Members of the] United States Armed Forces or the Pennsylvania National Guard on Federal active duty and deployed overseas that have licenses scheduled to expire during the period of deployment shall be extended until 90 days after the end of the deployment. 18 Pa. C.S. §6109(f)(3).

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the governor also unilaterally proclaimed an expiration extension, declaring that any LTCF expiring on March 19, 2020, or later, will be considered valid through December 31, 2020.

Pandemic aside, a de facto grace period exists under 18 Pa. C.S. § 6106 because there is an exemption for an individual whose LTCF has expired within six months, and that individual is otherwise eligible for renewal of the license.

For any questions regarding getting a License to Carry Firearms in Pennsylvania, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney

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