En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Pennsylvania

UPDATED May 25, 2017

View All

Below is information about state gun laws in Pennsylvania.  A PFA order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.  Go to our PA Where to Find Help to find an organization near you.

Guns and Protection from Abuse Orders (PFAs)

back to topI have a PFA order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

According to Pennsylvania state law, as part of a PFA order, the judge can make the abuser give up his guns for the time that the PFA order is in effect.  The judge can also order the abuser to temporarily give up any other weapons and ammunition if they were used or threatened to be used in an incident of abuse against the you or your children.*

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person's right to have a gun under certain circumstances such as when the abuser has been convicted of certain crimes or if you have an order of protection against the abuser that meets certain requirements.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(a)(7)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a PFA?

In Pennsylvania, it should be automatically written on the PFA order that the abuser cannot own or buy a gun while the order is in effect, but the judge can strike that provision, so it is important that you make it clear to the judge that the abuser’s weapons should be removed.  Here are a few steps you can take to help make this clear:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  • Ask the judge to write on the order that the defendant must give up all firearms that s/he has or owns as well as any that you listed on your petition.
  • Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written on your order.
It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse.  The PFA order includes options as to what happens to the abuser's guns, so you may also want to ask that the judge:
  • Require the abuser to give his guns to the sheriff or police, or require the sheriff or police to go to the abuser's house and get them.
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser.
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.*

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topI have an ex parte temporary PFA order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a final PFA order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Not necessarily.  The judge can order the guns to be taken away in an ex parte temporary PFA order if based on your petition, the judge believes that during the abuse, a firearm or other weapon was used or there is an immediate and present danger of abuse.  To determine whether an immediate and present danger of abuse exists, the judge will consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • If the temporary PFA order will protect you without ordering the abuser to give up his/her guns;
  • Whether the abuser has violated a PFA order in the past;
  • Whether past or present abuse to the you or your children resulted in injury;
  • Whether the abuse occurred in public;
  • Whether the abuse included:
    • threats of abuse or suicide;
    • killing or threatening to kill pets;
    • an escalation (increase) of violence;
    • stalking or obsessive behavior;
    • sexual violence; or
    • drug or excessive alcohol use.*
Therefore, if any of these factors apply to your situation, be sure to include this information in your petition and specifically mention that you want the abuser’s guns to be removed.

If there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in your temporary order, then you may have to wait until you are given a final PFA order.

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6107(b)(3)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to top