Owning a Gun After a Criminal Conviction: Is It Possible in Pennsylvania?

The consequences of a criminal conviction can extend beyond any jail or prison sentence you might face. Depending on the type of crime you are convicted of, the facts of the case, and the details of the sentence, you may owe fees and restitution or be required to serve parole even after you’re released. The impact on your rights can last even longer—perhaps years, depending on the factors of the case.

One of the rights that a criminal conviction can impact is the ability to purchase and possess firearms. This is not true in all cases, but convictions for assault charges and other violent crimes, weapons charges, and numerous other crimes can prohibit you from owning a gun legally in the state of Pennsylvania.

What Types of Convictions Can Impact Firearm Ownership in the State?

According to information published by the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Records and Identification’s Firearms Division, there are 38 specific crimes that are considered prohibiting offenses. A conviction on these charges automatically impacts your ability to own or purchase a firearm in the state legally

However, the State Police document also notes that any offense that is equivalent to the prohibited offenses listed—such as those tried under previous or future laws of the state or in another state—can also negatively impact your ability to own a firearm. That means you simply can’t look at the language of a conviction and match it up to this list to know whether you can own a firearm or not. It’s a good idea to speak to an attorney if you aren’t sure you can legally own a firearm, as this can help you avoid additional criminal charges in the future.

Some criminal convictions that keep you from lawfully owning or buying a firearm include:

  • Various weapons offenses, including possessing a weapon on school property
  • Murder or manslaughter of various types
  • Assault, stalking, rape, or other violent crimes
  • Kidnapping or unlawful restraint
  • Burglary, robbery, and felony criminal trespass
  • Certain types of theft charges and charges related to receiving stolen property
  • Witness intimidation, retaliation, or tampering
  • Corruption of minors

Are There Other Conditions That Impact Your Firearm Ownership in Pennsylvania?

The State Police detail further conditions that can cause you to be unable to own a firearm in the state legally. They include:

  • Being a fugitive
  • Having a previous conviction that was punishable by more than two years of imprisonment under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act
  • Being convicted of DUI three times within five years
  • Being deemed incompetent or admitted for mental health treatment involuntarily
  • Not being a legal citizen of the country
  • Being the subject of a retraining or protection order that requires you to give up your firearms temporarily or permanently
  • Being adjudicated as a delinquent with certain conditions
  • Having been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes

What Is the Pennsylvania Instant Check System?

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System, or PICS, is a solution implemented by the State Police that allows firearms dealers to run a thorough, quick background check to determine if they can sell a firearm to a specific person. If you are convicted of a prohibiting offense or meet the requirements for any of the conditions that would prohibit you from owning a firearm, this background check system will issue a denial.

However, a denial can be challenged within 30 days. You have to submit a form, which is four pages long, with information about why you believe you are eligible to purchase a firearm in the state. You can also attach additional documentation, such as proof that your conviction was overturned.

Protect Your Rights With Help From an Experienced Criminal Defense Team

Your right to purchase or own a firearm is not the only thing that a criminal conviction can impact. You may lose other rights and freedoms, and you can face challenges due to the stigma of having a conviction on your record. All of these are factors you should consider carefully when determining your defense strategy—for example, what, truly, do you stand to lose if you agree to a plea bargain?

An experienced criminal defense team can help you weigh the pros and cons of any defense strategy and understand all your options. This can help you make a more educated and confident decision about your defense. There’s no single right or wrong defense strategy, as criminal law cases can be complex, and every detail can impact the outcome of the case.

A criminal law attorney can also help protect your rights in the here and now. While it’s essential to consider the long-term impact of your case and how it will affect your future, you are also likely concerned with your immediate safety, needs, and rights. You might also want to ensure your family is able to keep up with your case and be supported by a criminal law team who can provide them with accurate facts about the proceedings.

If you’re facing a criminal conviction or wondering if a past criminal conviction impacts your rights today, talking with a criminal law team can be important. Contact the Liberty Law Team at 215-826-3314 to find out more about how we can help with your case. We work with individuals to fight a variety of criminal charges, and we also offer post-conviction services, including appeals.