Gun Law

The Second Amendment and Weapons Charges

American citizens have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, some people do not realize there still are restrictions on who can possess firearms and what types of weapons are considered legal. People who violate these laws still could face weapons charges.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Citizens and legislators often debate the intent behind the amendment, which says the purpose of bearing arms is to create a “well regulated militia” for self defense.

A 2008 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case changed the way some firearms and weapons are handled. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court determined handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment and struck down portions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975.

Local, state and federal legislative bodies, however, still possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. This means certain people may not be allowed to own firearms and other weapons still could be considered illegal.

Weapons offenses and penalties in Pennsylvania are classified under the Uniform Firearms Act, codified in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 6101 – 6187. These offenses could include possession of a prohibited weapon, prohibited firearm possession and unlawful sale or transfer of a firearm.

For instance, a person could be charged with possession of a prohibited weapon if he or she is found to be in possession of a bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, firearm made for concealment or silent discharge, metal knuckles or stun gun.

The charge generally is a first-degree misdemeanor, which could carry up to five years in prison, fines up to $10,000 or both.  There are some exceptions to the offense, such as if the defendant is a police firearms expert who is operating in the course of business.

Additionally, some people in Pennsylvania may not be allowed to legally possess firearms, including those who have been convicted of driving under the influence, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 6105. A person also could be restricted if he or she is convicted of:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Robbery
  • Possessing prohibited weapons

If a person is convicted of one of those offenses, he or she would not be able to own or possess a firearm. Doing so could lead to second-degree felony charging with up to 10 years in prison, $25,000 in fines or both.

Additionally, it is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania to sell or transfer a firearm to a purchaser if the person has not properly applied, before the statutory waiting period has ended or to a person who is prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm. If you are facing weapons charges, contact a West Chester criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm.

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Violent Crimes Attorney Michael J. Skinner Discusses Pennsylvania Armed Bank Robbery Laws and Punishments

Lamont Laprade, of Huntington, W.Va., was found guilty of robbing a bank at gunpoint in western Pennsylvania, Friday.  Authorities arrested Lamont Laprade as the getaway driver during a robbery and shooting of a teller at the Westmoreland Community Federal Credit Union, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in January 2010.  45-year-old David Mathis, of Crafton, was also accused of participating in the robbery and the violent crimes associated.  The accused crimes require a minimum of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  In Pennsylvania, a Judge may order restitution, and since it is an armed robbery case, he/she may rule that the criminal can no longer possess a firearm.

Sentencings for robberies vary greatly depending on several factors, particularly if the accused offended has a previous criminal record.  Robbery can be a felony of the first, second or third degree, and depending on severity of the degree, can result in maximum prison sentences of 20-25 year in federal prison. In this case, Laprade was found guilty of four counts of robbery; some of the charges are considered violent crimes in Pennsylvania.  Laprade was found guilty of several charges including bank robbery, armed robbery, conspiracy and using a firearm.  Crimes of violence, such as a weapons charge in West Chester, make the accused offender eligible for harsher sentencing.

Authorities say Laprade has a history of violent robberies with a weapon.  The armed robbery charge he faces could be a second degree felony offense under subsection (a)(1)(iv) of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701, which happens when the offender is accused of inflicting bodily injury upon another or threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear.  He could also face a third degree robbery offenses under subsection (a)(1)(v) if the accused offender physically took or removed property from the person of another by force however slight.

Robbery, violent crimes, illegal possession of a weapon and/or a firearm are serious crimes that, if found guilty, could result in years of prison and damage a person’s future forever.  If you have been accused of one of these crimes or any other criminal offense in Pennsylvania, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer to help navigate you through the legal process and help you avoid the harshest punishments.  West Chester criminal defense attorney Michael J. Skinner of Skinner Law Firm, LLC has represented clients accused of misdemeanor and/or felony crimes since 2007.

Call (267) 388-3476 to set up a free detailed consultation discussing your case with an actual attorney.  The more information you have and getting an early start on creating a defense could ultimately help you reduce or even dismiss serious charges and aggressive sentencing; so, call now, even if you have not been charged but may be expecting a criminal charge.  Michael J. Skinner of Skinner Law Firm, LLC respects attorney-client confidentiality.  Skinner Law Firm, LLC accepts cases in Chester County, Lancaster County, Berks County, Delaware County and Montgomery County.

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How Gun Licensing May Curb Violence in Pennsylvania

Gun violence is a very real issue in the state of Pennsylvania. As recently as early October, State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159 of Chester spoke to the community about gun violence and the possible solutions to the growing problem. Although gun violence is a serious issue, going through the proper channels to obtain a legal license to carry a firearm may curb gun violence. The process of applying for a gun license can weed out individuals who are unfit to carry a gun such as convicted felons or the mentally incompetent.

One of the most commonly charged gun crimes in Pennsylvania is the possession of a prohibited weapon, like a gun or firearm. Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 18 § 908, a person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree when he possesses any offensive weapon such as a firearm or gun. If charged a person can be convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

To obtain a license to carry a firearm there are certain guidelines that must be met.  First and foremost, a person must be 21 years of age and a resident of Chester County in order to obtain license to carry a firearm in Chester County. An individual must complete an application and return it in person to the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, provide two character references and provide proper identification. Identification that is acceptable includes a Pennsylvania driver’s license with a current address and photo or a Pennsylvania non-driver’s identification card that has a current photo and current Chester County address.

A person who is not a US citizen is allowed to apply for and obtain a license to carry a firearm. Non US citizens must present their current immigration card and the last three months of utility bills that show a current address.

After applying for a license to carry a firearm, it may take up to 45 days for approval, which is mandated by law. After an individual has been approved, the license will be sent via mail. If an individual has been denied, they will be notified by mail and a portion of the $20 application fee will be returned.  Some reasons a person could be denied a license to carry could include, a prior felony conviction, a prior conviction for a drug offense, a history of drug or alcohol use, or a mental health disorder that would deem an individual incompetent.

A license to carry a firearm is valid for five (5) years and upon expiration it must be renewed. Pennsylvania does not require firearms to be registered and a valid firearm license is good for any firearm owned by an individual.

Gun licensing may not be the cure-all for firearm violence in Pennsylvania but it is a start towards weeding out the individuals who are unfit to carry a gun. Additionally, obtaining a license to carry a firearm in can potentially prevent the possibility of being charged with possession of a prohibited weapon in West Chester. However, if you find yourself facing a charge for a gun crime in Pennsylvania, an experienced gun crime attorney in West Chester can help you in your defense against such a serious offense. A good criminal defense lawyer will examine your case closely and come up with the best defense possible to increase your chances of a favorable outcome regarding your particular circumstance.

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