There are two ways to carry a gun. You may “open carry” your gun or you may “concealed carry” your gun. There are a couple obvious differences between these two. First, the biggest difference is the manner in which the gun is carried on your person. To “open carry,” the gun is on the outside of your clothes in an open manner for all to see. This usually manifests as a gun in a holster on a hip. If any part of the gun is covered or concealed to the slightest degree, the gun is not considered to be concealed. As set forth in the statute provided below, the definition of concealed includes carrying your firearm in your vehicle. There are accepted and approved ways to carry your firearm in your vehicle if you do not have a license to carry. “Open carry” does not require any licensing while a license is absolutely necessary to carry a gun in a “concealed” manner.
In Pennsylvania, you can “open carry” almost anywhere outside of Philadelphia, except in any statutorily prohibited place, and any private property that instructs you not to have a gun on it.
BE CAREFUL. WHETHER APPROPRIATE OR NOT, IT IS HIGHLY LIKELY THAT IF YOU “OPEN CARRY” IN MANY PLACES, YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE STOPPED BY A POLICE OFFICER IF ONE SEES YOU. THIS IS PARTICULARLY TRUE IF YOU ARE NOT CARRYING YOUR FIREARM IN A HOLSTER. THAT OFFICER WILL LIKELY SET YOU ON YOUR WAY BUT IT IS VERY LIKELY THAT YOU WILL BE STOPPED AND QUESTIONED. WE OFFER NO OPINION AS TO WHETHER THIS IS APPROPRIATE. OBVIOUSLY, THOUGH, IF SOMEONE IS NOT VIOLATING THE LAW, THEY SHOULD NOT BE STOPPED BY THE POLICE.
Carrying that same gun in a concealed manner is a more difficult issue. This is dictated by statute:
6106. Firearms not to be carried without a license.
(a) Offense defined.— (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), any person who carries a firearm in any vehicle or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license under this chapter commits a felony of the third degree.
(2) A person who is otherwise eligible to possess a valid license under this chapter but carries a firearm in any vehicle or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license and has not committed any other criminal violation commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.
This statute can be broken down into a few parts:
First, you need a license to carry your gun in a concealed manner.
Second, if your gun is in your car and it is not in the trunk, you should assume that it is subject to this statute. This is important because you need to have a conceal and carry license for it to be in your car in this manner. Failure to have that license while carrying in your car (a very common mistake) often results in criminal charges.
Third, you don’t need a license to carry a gun around your house or your fixed place of business (a food truck is not a “fixed” place of business).
Fourth, there are exceptions to this but they are few and far between in their application, including: driving to and from the gun range; driving to and from the gun store; those on active military duty; and someone who is licensed to hunt and is actually properly hunting that which they are licensed to hunt. The exceptions are:
(1) Constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen of this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, or other law-enforcement officers.
(2) Members of the army, navy, marine corps, air force or coast guard of the United States or of the National Guard or organized reserves when on duty.
(3) The regularly enrolled members of any organization duly organized to purchase or receive such firearms from the United States or from this Commonwealth.
(4) Any persons engaged in target shooting with a firearm, if such persons are at or are going to or from their places of assembly or target practice and if, while going to or from their places of assembly or target practice, the firearm is not loaded.
(5) Officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry a concealed firearm.
(6) Agents, messengers and other employees of common carriers, banks, or business firms, whose duties require them to protect moneys, valuables and other property in the discharge of such duties.
(7) Any person engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing, or dealing in firearms, or the agent or representative of any such person, having in his possession, using or carrying a firearm in the usual or ordinary course of such business.
(8) Any person while carrying a firearm which is not loaded and is in a secure wrapper from the place of purchase to his home or place of business, or to a place of repair, sale or appraisal or back to his home or place of business, or in moving from one place of abode or business to another or from his home to a vacation or recreational home or dwelling or back, or to recover stolen property under section 6111.1(b)(4) (relating to Pennsylvania State Police), or to a place of instruction intended to teach the safe handling, use or maintenance of firearms or back or to a location to which the person has been directed to relinquish firearms under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108 (relating to relief) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm or to a licensed dealer’s place of business for relinquishment pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.2 (relating to relinquishment for consignment sale, lawful transfer or safekeeping) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm or to a location for safekeeping pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.3 (relating to relinquishment to third party for safekeeping) or back upon return of the relinquished firearm.
(9) Persons licensed to hunt, take furbearers or fish in this Commonwealth, if such persons are actually hunting, taking furbearers or fishing as permitted by such license, or are going to the places where they desire to hunt, take furbearers or fish or returning from such places.
(10) Persons training dogs, if such persons are actually training dogs during the regular training season.
(11) Any person while carrying a firearm in any vehicle, which person possesses a valid and lawfully issued license for that firearm which has been issued under the laws of the United States or any other state.
(12) A person who has a lawfully issued license to carry a firearm pursuant to section 6109 (relating to licenses) and that said license expired within six months prior to the date of arrest and that the individual is otherwise eligible for renewal of the license.
(13) Any person who is otherwise eligible to possess a firearm under this chapter and who is operating a motor vehicle which is registered in the person’s name or the name of a spouse or parent and which contains a firearm for which a valid license has been issued pursuant to section 6109 to the spouse or parent owning the firearm.
(14) A person lawfully engaged in the interstate transportation of a firearm as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3) (relating to definitions) in compliance with 18 U.S.C. § 926A (relating to interstate transportation of firearms).
(15) Any person who possesses a valid and lawfully issued license or permit to carry a firearm which has been issued under the laws of another state, regardless of whether a reciprocity agreement exists between the Commonwealth and the state under section 6109(k), provided:
(i) The state provides a reciprocal privilege for individuals licensed to carry firearms under section 6109.
(ii) The Attorney General has determined that the firearm laws of the state are similar to the firearm laws of this Commonwealth.
(16) Any person holding a license in accordance with section 6109(f)(3).
Some areas where your license does not extend to: government land or buildings; schools; airports; certain parks and forests; and many public areas.
On private property, the owner (whether it is a business or personal property) has the right to forbid firearm presence. If you ignore their posted warnings or personal statements you are not guilty of violating §6106 but you may be guilty of a number of other non-gun charges.
It can be quite confusing to know where and when it is okay to carry a gun in a concealed manner. Never assume that you can figure it out after the fact.