Are There Illegal Firearms in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is known to be a pro-gun state and ranks fifth among all fifty states when counting the number of registered guns. Despite this, Pennsylvania’s state government doesn’t allow anyone to buy any kind of firearm or weapon of that nature. There are restrictions, meaning that there are illegal firearms that you will be arrested for owning.
The interesting thing is that it’s not entirely obvious which firearms are illegal and why. There are firearms that are perfectly fine until you make a modification or add an attachment to them. Then there are weapons that are completely illegal that you’d have to get through less than legal means, which is a crime in itself.
If you want to know what firearms you can and can’t own in Pennsylvania, the criminal defense attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help.
What are Illegal Firearms?
State law prohibits any form of repairing, selling, dealing, using, or possessing any “offensive weapon.” This term will understandably sound strange because aren’t all weapons ‘offensive?’ In its context, offensive weapons are firearms that serve no lawful purpose. This can commonly be treated on a case-by-case basis, which makes many unregistered firearms risky to own.
When you buy firearms from an accredited seller, the state government has already tracked and approved their sale. This way you know that the weapons are legal, and law enforcement is less likely to arrest you for owning them in that they were approved for sale.
For a firearm to serve a lawful purpose, it must have a specific use without being superior to law enforcement or the military’s own armaments. For example, handguns, AR-15s, and some shotguns are for self-defense. Then, there are rifles that are specifically for hunting and discus shooting, which are allowed.
Weapons Citizens Are Not Allowed to Own
Now knowing what is considered a legal firearm, it’s easier to understand why some firearms are illegal. For future reference, firearms do not solely refer to guns. Firearms are defined as “any weapon which is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” This means that some illegal firearms include weapons that are not guns that you may also not know you cannot own in the state of Pennsylvania. These include:
- Bombs/Grenades – These are considered firearms because they fire projectiles. Citizens are not allowed to own them or possess them in any way, not even for self-defense. Where guns can be aimed at a target, a grenade destroys or injures everything or anyone within its blast radius, making it inefficient for self-defense, and only for war.
- Machine gun – These firearms have a continuous-fire feature. This means they will continuously fire as long as the trigger is depressed and ammunition is available.
- Sawed-off shotgun – This is specifically a shotgun whose barrel has been modified to be less than 18 inches. If the weapon’s design is naturally less than 18 inches or longer than 18 inches, it is not considered a sawed-off shotgun. Sawed-off shotguns were originally made illegal when handguns were banned and these could be concealed like one. While handguns are no longer illegal, sawed-off shotguns remain banned due to their wide and uncontrollable bullet spread.
- Weapons with concealment attachments – The firearm itself isn’t illegal, but putting attachments on or around the firearm is. This can include concealed carry holsters, silencers, and suppressors. Some of these can be legal, but only when they are registered in accordance with the National Firearms Act (NFA).
- Melee weapons that have a discharge – Blackjacks, sandbags, metal knuckles, and stun batons are illegal for citizens to own. A discharge can be electricity, a sharp point, or some other design that transfers kinetic energy to the weapon’s dense core.
Who Can Use These Illegal Firearms?
As with many rules, there are exceptions. In this case, there are exceptions written right into law that there are specific individuals who may use some of these illegal firearms. These include several different levels of police officers from the municipal to the state level, and Liquor Control Board agents. They can use illegal firearms including:
- Special grenades (smoke, tear gas)
- Machine guns
- Weapons with concealment attachments
- Stun batons
Contact MVSK Law if You’re Charged With Possessing an Illegal Firearm
Being charged with possession of an illegal firearm is no small thing. The consequences are even worse if you’re charged with intent to sell, distribute, or use, so if you’re charged, you need a criminal justice attorney. A quality criminal justice attorney can mean the difference between you and your freedom.
The attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam have the experience and dedication you need to help your case. Contact us today.