Uniform Firearms Act: Act 158 – Right to Carry

We will start this continuing series with Pennsylvania going from a “may-issue” discretionary issue state, to a shall-issue state. Prior to Act 158, the law read something like this:

Issue of License.–The Chief or Head of any police fore or department of a city, and elsewhere the Sheriff of a County, may, upon the application of any person, issue a license to such person to carry a firearm in a vehicle or concealed on or about his person within this commonwealth for not more than five years from the date of issue, if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear an injury to his person or property, or has any other proper reason for carrying a firearm, and that he is a suitable person to be licensed.

Act 158 was actually a child welfare bill, that had right to carry attached to it. It fundamentally altered the licensing language to say:

Grant or Denial of License.–Upon the receipt of an application for the license to carry a firearm, the sheriff shall, within 45 days, issue or refuse to issue a license on the basis of the investigation under subsection (d) and the accuracy of the information contained in the application. If the sheriff refuses to issue a license, the sheriff shall notify the applicant in writing of the refusal and the reason. The notice shall be sent by certified mail to the applicant at the address set fourth in the application.

This basically made the state shall issue.  Subsection D spells out the conditions that one must meet to qualify for a license, and they are objective, for the most part.   But, there was a catch:

 (2) In a City of the First Class, a license shall be issued only if it additionally appears that the applicant ahs good reason to fear an injury to the applicant’s person or property, or has any other proper reason for carrying a firearm and that the applicant is a suitable individual to be licensed.

Philadelphia is the only city of the first class in the Commonwealth.  Act 158 specifically exempted Philadelphia from the right-to-carry requirement, and allowed the city to continue to refuse to issue gun licenses to anyone they didn’t sufficiently like.

Act 158 also made provision for sportsman’s permits, for carrying a firearm while hunting, in addition to strengthening the state’s preemption to include ammunition and ammunition components.

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