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Legal Information: Pennsylvania

State Gun Laws

Updated: 
February 5, 2020

I have an ex parte temporary PFA order against the abuser. Can s/he have a gun?

The judge can order the abuser’s guns to be taken away in an ex parte temporary PFA order if based on your petition, the judge believes that:

  1. during the abuse, a firearm or other weapon was used; or
  2. 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.1

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.

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6107(b)(3)

I 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 his/her guns to the sheriff or the appropriate law enforcement agency;
  • prohibit the abuser from getting any firearms for the time that the PFA order is in effect; and
  • 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 you or your children.1

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.

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(a)(7)

Is 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.1