To the surprise of many residents, as well as law enforcement officers, individuals who are not prohibited from owning firearms may openly carry a handgun on or about his/her person without a license (18 PA.C.S. § 6106). This has been upheld by the PA Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Ortiz and Commonwealth v. Hawkins. However, there are some limitations on open carry. Specifically:
1.) the handgun must be in plain sight;
2.) the individual cannot open carry in a vehicle (18 PA.C.S. § 6106);
3.) in cities of the first class (Philadelphia); and
4.) where prohibited by statute. Current prohibitions by statute include during a state of emergency (18 PA.C.S. § 6107), and openly carrying in Philadelphia without a License to Carry Firearms (LTCF; meaning a concealed carry permit) (18 PA.C.S. § 6108).
There are also places which are off-limits in PA, whether you are open or concealed carrying. These include:
1.)All Federal Facilities (Unless Authorized);
2.) All Court Facilities;
3.) State Parks (except while in a vehicle)(This was amended by 6109(m.2), which now permits the carrying of a concealed weapon while in a state park);
4.) Adult and Juvenile Detention Facilities; and
5.) Airport Terminals (secure areas only).
The issue of both open and concealed carry on school property has not been determined. Per 18 PA.C.S. 912, possession of “a weapon in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school” is a misdemeanor of the first degree. However, the statute allows for “a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.”
It should be noted that PA allows the concealed (with a LTCF) or open carry of a firearm in an establishment that sells or serves alcohol.
Anyone considering open or concealed carry should check out the PAOpenCarry.org website, as well as their brochure.