Across the United States right now, gun rights and legislation is a hot topic. Recent shootings in schools, churches and other public places have ignited this age-old discussion. Should gun control increase or relax?

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it is important to know what Pennsylvania state law currently regulates guns. Like every other state, Pennsylvania can add its own policies to the federal gun laws already in place.

Open carry

Along with the majority of states, Pennsylvania is an open carry state. This means that a resident can carry a legal firearm in a holster, for example, and does not need a permit to do so. Minors can only carry with parental or guardian supervision. That said, no one can carry a gun on school grounds aside from law enforcement.

In order to carry a hidden firearm, residents must first obtain a concealed carry license. Applicants must be 21 years old and without certain criminal convictions.

Background checks

Per federal policy, firearm sellers must conduct a background check of the customer before they can purchase the gun for open carry or otherwise. These checks search for a few potential red flags, including:

  • Mental disability or significant illness
  • Criminal history and juvenile delinquency
  • Invalid identification
  • Lack of U.S. citizenship
  • History of substance abuse
  • Protective order against abuse

While not everyone with these qualities plans to commit crimes with a firearm, the government has decided to mitigate any related risks. This review can cause a delay in receiving the gun in addition to the two-day waiting period, but it should not take an unreasonable amount of time.

Illegal firearms

The state considers some firearms to be excessively dangerous. Although American citizens have a constitutional right to bear arms, certain guns are banned. Pennsylvania prohibits machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. In addition, nobody can own special accessories like silencers. The controversial assault rifle is not among this list of illegal weapons.

This blog post provides a basic overview of state gun policies, but there are many additional restrictions and procedures in place. Before owning, carrying, transferring or selling a gun, please research all related laws and seek legal guidance if needed.