Pennsylvania Firearms Charges (Gun Charges in PA)

The Top 10 Things NOT To Do If You're Arrested

When it comes to gun charges in PA and crimes related to illegal possession of firearms, a skilled attorney in your corner is an absolute must. Firearms charges carry significant jail time if convicted. If convicted, you will have a permanent record that will haunt you for life.

When selecting which attorney to hire, please consider:

  • Can you call anytime and talk to a live person?
  • Do they offer payment plans with no credit checks?
  • Will your attorney be attentive and explain what’s going on?

At The McShane Firm, we answer yes to all of these questions. We strive to provide you with a great customer service experience during this tough time.

Free information on Federal Firearms charges

The team of attorneys here at The McSHANE FIRM have extensive knowledge, training and experience in defending against firearms related charges. We own and respect firearms. The most common charges that we see are:

Gun charges PA can also involve forensic firearm and tool mark examination, fingerprints and ballistics. We know all of these areas of science and the law.

Forensic science

There is a lot of forensic science involved in firearms cases including:

  • forensic firearm and toolmark analysis,
  • fingerprints
  • DNA (touch DNA) and 
  • Ballistics

In this video, you can see Attorney McShane explain the ballistics of live fire rounds into and through a windshield. Co-instructor Steve S. at BlackWater North (now known as The Site) at Blackwater Lodge and Training Center in Illinois gives a layman’s explanation. The old USTC and Blackwater North are the facilities once owned by Echo Papa himself. In the old days of the PMC world of Global Response Staff (GRS) and DOD or Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), CPA and PSD, Blackwater was the top of the industry.

What is The McShane Difference?

  • We take time to understand your personal needs and goals. Then we cater our legal strategy to fit you.
  • We care about you. We listen and return phone calls. We will take time to explain things so you are not left anxious in the dark.
  • We will make this as easy as possible. We will try to minimize the number of times you have to be in court which means less disruption of your work and family life.

Does this sound like what you are looking for in an attorney? If yes, then take the next step and call (717) 657-3900.

The government doesn’t play, you shouldn’t either

When the government accuses folks of gun charges, they often seek to deny bail. The penalties for firearms related charges can be very steep. With the patchwork of laws all across the US when it comes to firearms, it is easy to become an accidental criminal. For instance, in Pennsylvania, in order to transport a firearm in your car, you must have a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms or other recognized permit, unless one of a couple of exceptions applies, such as going directly to or from the shooting range. But more often than not, those exceptions may unknown by the officer. The laws are complicated. 

Additional recommended reading: 

What is a Prohibitive Offensive Weapon in terms of gun charges in PA?

In Pennsylvania, the POW or Prohibitive Offensive Weapon charge is a sort of “catch-all” for a bunch of weapons. But in the context of firearms, it includes weapons that are typically subject to the federal National Firearms Act (NFA) such as a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge. If someone complies with the federal NFA and has the tax stamp and Form 1 or Form 4 to prove it or is a FFL7 with an SOT, then the POW law is inapplicable.

Short barreled rifle and PA POW charge

Interestingly, the PA POW law does not include what the federal government classifies as a short-barreled rifle (SBR). The government may try to say that an SBR meets the definition of a prohibitive offensive weapon based upon the part of the definition that reads: “other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose,”  or it isa rifle that is “specially adapted for concealment,” but there is no case that specifically authorizes such a prosecution. However, if you have a SBR that is not under the NFA, then you are subject to federal prosecution. It would be a disaster to swap a state misdemeanor one charge for a federal felony charge.

Consider this client success story:

Gun Charge

My son got into a arguement back in July 18, 2015. It end up being a gun charge. My sister told me about Justin McShane and im glad she did. God is truly using Justin. He is about his business and plays NO GAMES, i thank him for the work he has put into helping my son out. I would recommend him to anybody who needs his help and not to mention his paralegal Heidie is a very nice person. I love their professionalism and how they wont stop working until the job is done. Thank you Justin from the bottom of my heart.



What you lose with a conviction

Examples of firearm charges or gun charges in PA

  • Direct to and from issues

What if you are driving to the range to go target shooting. You don’t have a license to carry. You are not prohibited from having a firearm. A cop pulls you over for a technical violation. He sees you have a handgun in the car. You try to explain that you are going target shooting, but how do you prove that that is where you were headed to a skeptical officer? He asks a lot of questions. You think nothing of it. You admit to stopping at Wawa or Sheetz for a quick sandwich. Is that what the law is meant to prevent? At the end of the day, the burden is on the government to prove that the exceptions don’t apply. However, your innocent action won’t stop you from getting charged.

  • Unknowing possession in a car

Our Clients are entitled to a Bill of Rights which states:

  • Our clients have the right to expect, we will be proactive in communication. You will hear it from us first. We will return all phone calls, texts and emails promptly.
  • Our clients have the right to expect plain speaking, straight shooting. No B. S.
  • Our clients have the right to expect us to do it right the first time, every time.
  • Our clients have the right to expect us to be on time and professionally prepared for all court appearances, and all meetings.
  • Our clients have the right to expect that they will be fully informed at all times.

This is our promise to you. Call today to get us on your side: (717) 657-3900.

What if you are driving your non-biological step dad’s car. Your step father never adopted you. He has a license to carry, but you don’t. He keeps a gun in the glove compartment. You didn’t know or remember it is there. You get pulled over. While looking for the registration, you happen upon the gun. The cop on alert asks you a bunch of questions. You admit that you do not have a valid license to carry a firearm. You say that you kinda remember that he kept one there, but forgot in the moment.

Are you unlawfully carrying a firearm without a license? If the step dad adopted you or if he was your biological father and you are otherwise allowed to possess firearms, then no, you are not committing a crime because the law allows for an exception if the car is registered to a parent and that parent has a valid license to carry. However, that’s not our facts. In our fact scenario it is a violation of the law because you admitted that you knew it was there and the exception doesn’t apply. But is that what the law is mean to punish? We help defend the intending to be innocent.

  • Person not to Posses in Home with Lawful Gun-owner

What if you are a person not to possess? However, you live in a house with someone who lawfully owns guns. What if those guns are locked up and you don’t have access to those guns? The police receive a tip that you live in that house with guns. They execute a search warrant based upon that tip. The police find the guns. They find you in the house. The cop charges you with a felony. Are you in illegal possession of those firearms?

The answer is no under those circumstances. Just because you may be prohibited from possessing firearms, that does not eliminate the Second Amendment rights of those folks you live with in the same house. So long as the firearms are stored in a manner that you have no access to them, you are not in possession of those firearms. You are physically incapable of possessing the firearms. But will the police care? Will they let your prior record and your prior mistake drive the decision? You need an experienced attorney on your side to fight for your rights when the cops are wrong.

Consider this client success story:

Watching him defend my husband he’s the best attorney I’ve seen in Harrisburg pa

He is the best words can’t explain how much I appreciate him fighting for my husband who was charged with a firearm possession and it could of sent him back for 10 years he saved his life. He was innocent and it was proven.


It is amazing to us how many times we run into PICS denial cases. So we made an entire section on it. Please read it.

Additional recommended reading: PICS (Pennsylvania Instant Check) or background check charges


How to choose the right gun charge attorney in PA

Your choice of attorney must be someone who knows and loves guns.



YES Do you know the difference between a 9mm and a 45?  
YES Do you have a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms?  
YES Have you ever shot a gun?  
YES Do you own any guns?  
YES Do you know that AR doesn’t stand for “automatic rifle”?  
YES Have you written any books about Pennsylvania Firearms Laws?  
YES Do you teach attorneys, judges and citizens about firearm’s laws?  
YES Have you attended the NRA national seminar on firearms laws?  
YES Have you ever filled out a From 4473 to purchase a firearm?  
YES Do you presume me to be innocent?  
YES When is the last time you went to trial on a firearms related charge?  


Attorney McShane has been shooting and hand loading rounds for a long time.

Attorney McShane’s favorite firearm is his 338 Lapua Magnum

Pennsylvania Firearms Charges Penalties

Possession by a Person Prohibited
Maximum Charge:
Felony 2
Maximum Sentence:
10 Years
Possession by a Person Prohibited with a Prior Conviction for Possession by a Person Prohibited
Maximum Charge:
Felony 1
Maximum Sentence:
20 Years
Possession of firearm with altered manufacturer’s number
Maximum Charge:
Felony 2
Maximum Sentence:
10 Years
Prohibited Offensive Weapon
Maximum Charge:
Misdemeanor of the First Degree
Maximum Sentence:
5 Years
Carrying a Firearm without a License
Maximum Charge:
Felony 3*
Maximum Sentence:
7 Years
*if you are otherwise eligible to possess a license and have committed no other crime other than carrying without a license, it is a Misdemeanor 1. Misdemeanors of the first degree have a maximum sentence of 5 years.


Firearms charges and gun laws are fascinating to us. There is usually a lot of context that drives these cases. There are many circumstances related to firearms charges that can either increase or decrease your possible penalties. Many DAs and many criminal defense attorneys have never held a gun. They are anti-gun. This is just one of many reasons why it is so important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Contact the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at The McShane Firm today for your free consultation. We are here and ready to fight for your freedom.

Additional recommended reading: