Hi, I’m Mike Giaramita, Independent Program Attorney with U.S. LawShield of Pennsylvania.

As gun owners, we’re generally people who like to be prepared. With that in mind, I want to talk about gun laws that apply specifically during a state of emergency.

In Pennsylvania, there have been a few times where the governor issued a state of emergency in the last few years. Fortunately, we haven’t been hit with any hurricanes, earthquakes, or major tornadoes, but we have had snowstorms where the governor issued a state of emergency. Also, while a little unconventional, Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing opioid crisis.

Federal Law

First, let’s talk about federal law. A lot of us remember the firearms confiscation that took place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans Superintendent Eddie Compass declared “only law enforcement will be able to have weapons.”

Realizing just how wrong this was, Congress acted swiftly, enacting 42 U.S.C. § 5207. This law basically precludes the federal government, people acting on behalf of the federal government, or people receiving federal funds from making up gun regulations during a major disaster or an emergency. There are some exceptions, but the law prohibits confiscation or registration unless it would be authorized absent the disaster or emergency. It also generally forbids limitations on possession or carry if it’s not otherwise prohibited under federal, state, or local law.

The law makes it clear that violators can be sued in court, and if a person succeeds in this kind of lawsuit, the government has to pay their attorney fees.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Pennsylvania law.

Pennsylvania Law

18 Pa. C.S. § 6107 provides a similar protection:

“…no firearm, accessory, or ammunition may be seized, taken or confiscated during an emergency unless the seizure, taking or confiscation would be authorized absent the emergency.”

But Section 6107 also provides specific restrictions on carry during a state of emergency:

“No person shall carry a firearm upon the public streets or upon any public property during an emergency proclaimed by a State or municipal governmental executive…”

This prohibition doesn’t apply if you’re actively defending your life or property from peril or threat. So, if a dangerous looter breaks into your house, you get into a gunfight for your life, and it spills out onto the street, you’d be exempt. The prohibition also doesn’t apply if you have a License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”) or if you’re exempt from licensing under 18 Pa. C.S. § 6105(b).

So, the moral of the story is if you’re eligible for an LTCF, it’s a good idea to get one! Or else you might end up disarmed in a dangerous situation during a state of emergency.

For more information about carrying during a state of emergency, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with an Independent Program Attorney.

ALERT: Make sure to check all state and local laws and reach out to your Independent Program Attorney as you prepare for emergency situations. Click here for the latest webinar discussion regarding travel restrictions during a pandemic with Sam Malone, featuring Independent Program Attorneys David Katz, James Reeves, Emily Taylor, and Richard Hayes.

The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.