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PA GUN LAWS ABOUT MAGAZINE CAPACITY 


10/5/2020

In Pennsylvania, as in every other state, firearms and ammunition fall under a variety of state and federal laws. In some cases, Pennsylvania’s laws go further than federal laws do, imposing additional restrictions on the ability to possess firearms or carry a weapon in some public places.

Understanding how both state and federal laws affect your rights to purchase, possess, and carry guns can help keep you out of legal trouble. One of the most commonly asked questions regarding gun laws in PA pertains to magazine capacity, specifically whether large capacity magazines are legal in Pennsylvania. An experienced criminal defense attorney in PA can provide you with direct answers regarding your case, and help you determine the best approach for dealing with any potential criminal charges related to gun ownership.

The Controversy Regarding Large Capacity Magazines

As you might be aware, magazine capacity has become a popular topic of debate in Pennsylvania and across the United States. When large-scale shootings are committed by individuals using high capacity magazines, discussions inevitably arise about passing new laws to limit the legal capacity of magazines.

Generally, any magazine with the capacity to hold more than ten rounds is considered to be a “large capacity magazine” or LCM. In some states, the definition of large capacity is 15 rounds or more while in others, the definition varies between handguns and long guns. High capacity magazines can be used in a variety of semi-automatic weapons, including machine guns, assault rifles, and handguns.

Some individuals and groups argue that limiting legal access to LCMs could generally reduce  crime and gun violence. In response, certain states have implemented legislation that limits the legal ammunition capacity of magazines, although many other states have declined to adopt laws that restrict ammunition capacity.

What Are the PA Gun Laws for Magazine Capacity?

Currently, Pennsylvania does not have any laws on the books that limit magazine capacity or that ban the purchase, sale, possession or use of large capacity magazines.

Several states have implemented restrictions on LCMs, however, including Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. To an extent, these types of laws come and go depending on the current political climate.

In 2013, for example, Pennsylvania considered laws that would have prohibited the possession or sale of high capacity magazines. In fact, state legislators went so far as to introduce legislation. The bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate would have banned LCMs above a 10-round capacity. The bill introduced in the Pennsylvania House would have banned LCMs above a 15-round capacity.

Neither the Senate bill nor the House bill was ever approved or implemented. As a result, Pennsylvania does not currently have any laws in place that ban large capacity magazines.

How Does Federal Law Affect Pennsylvania Gun Laws & Magazine Capacity?

In the mid-1990s, the federal government enacted a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles and LCMs. Those laws expired in 2004, however, making formerly banned firearms and magazines legal at the federal level once again. Individual states could then implement their own bans.

Some aspects of Pennsylvania’s current gun laws are more restrictive than the federal laws. For example, Pennsylvania law regulates firearms dealers, requires universal background checks for handguns, and restricts the ability for anyone who has committed a domestic violence offense to possess firearms. However, neither federal nor Pennsylvania law places restrictions on magazine capacity or on assault weapons.

What Are the Potential Criminal Implications of Pennsylvania Magazine Capacity?

Even if you have never been charged with or convicted of a crime, a weapons violation can put you behind bars for years or even decades. Fortunately, our weapons laws, contained within the PA Uniform Firearms Act, provide a wide range of freedoms, including the ability to purchase rifles, shotguns, and handguns without a permit or license. Neither registration nor licensure is required and you don’t need a permit to carry a rifle or shotgun. You must, however, have a permit to carry a handgun.

You should not face any PA weapons charges for a large capacity ammunition magazine, as long as you purchased the magazine lawfully and you have no criminal record or other factors that would disqualify you from buying, selling, or possessing a LCM. . That does not mean, however, that you might not face other types of firearms offenses while in possession of a LCM.

Violations of the Uniform Firearms Act are referred to as “VUFA” charges. Some of the most common types of VUFA offenses in PA include unlawful public carry, carrying without a license (when required), minors in possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm that has an altered manufacturer’s identification number. Also, if you are deemed a “person not to possess” (someone who is legally prohibited from possessing a firearm in Pennsylvania), you could face state weapons charges under Section 6105 of the UFA if you are found to be in possession of a firearm. 

Potential charges for weapons offenses range from third-degree misdemeanor to first-degree felony. Penalties for PA gun violation convictions depend on how the offense is classified. A third-degree misdemeanor, for example, carries potential penalties of up to $2,000 in monetary fines and up to a year in jail, whereas a first-degree misdemeanor carries potential penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and five years behind bars. A third-degree felony carries a $15,000 fine and up to seven years in prison, whereas a first-degree felony carries a $20,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison.

What Should You Do If You Face PA Weapons Offense Charges?

A firearms conviction can significantly affect your every aspect of your life. Not only will you be subject to incarceration, but you will also have a permanent criminal record that could negatively affect every aspect of your life and your future.

If charges have been handed down or if you believe you could face arrest, you should talk to an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not provide any statements to the police or discuss any plea agreements with the prosecutor until you can first determine what your options are.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Now for Help with PA Weapons Charges

If you face the possibility of criminal charges for a weapons violation, Lauren Wimmer, an experienced PA weapons offense attorney from Wimmer Criminal Defense, PC, can help. Upon conviction for a gun-related crime, you face the potential for severe penalties, including the possibility of extensive prison time.

I offer a free, confidential consultation for anyone facing state or federal gun charges in Pennsylvania. My goal is to provide the information and answers you need to help you determine your next steps. Contact us or call 215-712-1212 to learn more about PA gun laws for magazine capacity or to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney now.