In Pennsylvania, when can you lend your firearm to someone else? This appears to be a simple question, but there are actually many layers we need to examine before arriving at an accurate answer.
Things to consider #1: The type of firearm
The first consideration is what type of firearm you are trying to loan. Under federal law, there are restrictions on loaning any National Firearms Act (“NFA”) restricted weapons, such as short-barreled rifles or short-barreled shotguns, to anyone not specifically named as able to possess them in a trust or other governing document.
Things to consider #2: Recipient’s state of residence
Next, federal law requires you to consider the recipient’s state of residence. Where does the person who wants to borrow your firearm live? Are they a resident of your home state? Federal law at 18 USC 922(a)(5) says that it is unlawful for a person to “transfer, sell, trade, give, transport, or deliver any firearm to any person… who the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe does not reside in… the State in which the transferor resides…”
However, this same law also provides an exception by saying that the prohibition does NOT apply to the “loan or rental of a firearm to any person for temporary use for lawful sporting purposes…” So, if your buddy comes into town from another state to hunt or target shoot with you, you may lend him a firearm under federal law.
However, you may not loan this individual a firearm purely for a defensive purpose (absent imminent life-or-death emergency scenarios, where the common law doctrine of necessity may provide you a legal defense).
Assuming you are loaning a firearm to a fellow resident of Pennsylvania, we next need to consider what type of firearm you are loaning. Pennsylvania draws a distinction between handguns and long guns (rifles or shotguns). Generally, absent restrictions on age and legal ability to possess firearms, in Pennsylvania, you can loan a rifle or shotgun to another adult Pennsylvanian.
State Law: Loaning Handguns
Under 18 Pa.C.S. 6115, a handgun cannot be loaned to another person unless they meet one of the following exceptions:
- Has a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms;
- Is exempt from licensing;
- Is engaged in a hunter safety program certified by the Pennsylvania Game Commission or a firearm training program or competition sanctioned or approved by the National Rifle Association;
- The person who receives the weapon is under 18 years of age, but is under the supervision, guidance, and instruction of a responsible individual who is not otherwise prohibited from lawfully possessing firearms;
- Is lawfully hunting or trapping;
- Is being passed by intestacy (without a will), or by bequest to someone able to possess the firearm under 18 Pa.C.S. 6105 (relating to prohibited persons); or
- Within one’s dwelling or place of business, provided the firearm does not leave the dwelling or place of business.
The most common exception is the first, listed above. This exception allows you to loan a firearm to a Pennsylvanian who has a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms.
Things to consider #3: The Borrower’s Age
- Under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or an adult acting with the expressed consent of the minor’s custodial parent or legal guardian, and the minor is engaged in lawful activity, including safety training, lawful target shooting, engaging in an organized competition involving the use of a firearm, or the firearm is unloaded and the minor is transporting it for a lawful purpose; or
- Who is lawfully hunting or trapping in accordance with 34 Pa.C.S. (relating to game).
There is not an age restriction under either state or federal law when loaning a long gun, such as a standard rifle or shotgun, to a minor.
Other Things to Consider
You should also make sure that the person you are lending a firearm to is eligible to possess firearms. This means that they cannot be barred by either state or federal law from possessing guns. This can be tricky, because even a felony from 30 years ago could prevent someone from legally possessing firearms. For this reason, before loaning a gun, we recommend getting a written and signed statement from the borrower, including:
- When the firearm should return to your possession, and
- That the state or federal law does not prohibit the person from possessing firearms.
Finally, it would be a good practice to discuss the purpose of the loan. You want to make sure you do not loan your weapon to someone who is planning on going out to commit crimes with it! Should you loan your firearm to someone who goes out and commits a bank robbery with your weapon, you run the risk of both criminal prosecution as an accomplice, as well as a civil suit by any victims. For this reason, you need to be very cautious when loaning firearms.
If you have any questions about lending your firearm to a third party, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.