How to buy a gun in Pennsylvania

Whether you want to purchase a firearm to take up hunting, competitive shooting or for self defense and home protection, buying a gun in Pennsylvania is easy and straight forward but does have requirements and takes some time to process. We will walk you through the step by step process of how to buy a gun in Pennsylvania.

Step 1: Gun Purchase Legal Requirements

Pennsylvania state has several requirements for purchasing a gun.
First, you must be 18 to buy a gun. You are not allowed to have a gun if you have been convicted of a violent crime nor can you have a gun if you are an undocumented immigrant, are declared mentally ill by the court, are a drug addict or habitual drunkard, are a fugitive from justice, have been convicted of three separate DUI charges within a five-year period or are subject to an active protection from abuse order.
If you aren’t disqualified from the legal requirements, continue reading on about how to buy a gun in Pennsylvania!

Step 2: Go to a Pennsylvania gun store

There are more than 2,500 federally licensed firearms dealers in Pennsylvania. The chance is, there’s one nearby you. Some gun stores, like 717 Armory Gun Shop in Harrisburg, has an indoor shooting range where you can try out the most popular guns on the market before you decide on one to buy! They also have an Online Gun Shop.

how to buy a gun in pa state

ATF Form 4473

Step 3: Fill out an application to purchase a gun in Pennsylvania

People interested in purchasing a firearm — whether it be a handgun, rifle or shotgun — must fill out an application. The application will ask for your basic information, as well as ask questions regarding your criminal and mental health history to ensure you meet the legal requirements in step 1.

Step 4: Pennsylvania State Police Background check and fees

At this point, your firearms dealer will plug that information into the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) to determine if you are legally allowed to own a gun.
There is a fee for this background check to be performed and it usually ranges between $20 and $30 depending on whether you are buying a handgun or a long gun.
“In most cases, the check goes through within minutes — very quickly,” says Adam Reed of the Pennsylvania State Police said. “If there’s an issue that pops up, the gun dealer then is instructed to get on the phone with an operator here [at our PSP] headquarters.”
Issues like this typically arise when the applicant has an active protection from abuse order or is convicted of a crime in another state.

Option 2: Buy at a gun show or from a friend

Aside from purchasing at a gun shop, Pennsylvanians may also purchase firearms at a gun show or from a private dealer.
If you purchase a firearm from a federally licensed dealer at the gun show, the process is the same as if you purchased it from a gun shop. You will have to fill out an application to purchase a firearm and go through a PICS background check.

But the process changes if you purchase a gun from someone that is not a federally licensed dealer — known as the gun show loophole — or from someone privately.
You are allowed by law to purchase a long gun which includes a rifle or shotgun — without having to go through a background check.
But If you wanted to purchase a handgun privately, you would have to go to a FFL dealer to complete a firearms transfer. There is a fee for this transfer which is between $40-$70 depending on the dealer.

The FFL transfer deal will require you to fill out the same application and background check as if you were purchasing the firearm from them.

How to buy a gun in PA

Man with gun and permit application documents

Rules about carrying your firearm in Pennsylvania

The laws surrounding carrying your firearm is a little tricky in Pennsylvania. Gun owners can carry their firearms in public, as long as it is in plain view, like on the front part of a belt or over a jacket.
It is not legal to conceal the weapon behind a jacket or have it placed in a vehicle without having a concealed carry license. Open carry and concealed carry gun owners alike should followup their gun purchase with firearms training and legal training to protect themselves and those around them to the maximum extent shall they find themselves in a life threatening situation.

Transporting your firearm around Pennsylvania

If you don’t have a concealed carry license but want to transport your gun to the range to practice shooting, you must carry your firearms and their unloaded ammunition in two separate containers in your vehicle.