One of the most common questions we get asked is, “What happens if I’m carrying someone else’s gun and I have to use it in a self-defense situation?” When it comes to determining if your use of force was justified, it doesn’t matter who the gun belongs to, however, there are limitations on lending firearms in Pennsylvania. Here are a few things to consider if you’re planning on carrying or using a borrowed gun from someone else.
Section 6115 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code generally prohibits lending firearms to another person. However, there are a number of exceptions.
Loaning a firearm is permitted if any of the following exceptions apply:
- You are loaning the gun to a person who has a License to Carry Firearms or is exempt from licensing;
- The person is engaged in a hunter safety program or a firearms training program;
- The person is under the age of 18 and under supervision of a responsible individual who is 21 years old or older and is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm;
- You are loaning the firearm to a person who is hunting;
- You are loaning a firearm to someone in your home or business, provided the person is not prohibited from possessing firearms, and the firearm is retained in the home or the business; or
- You are loaning a firearm to a spouse, between a child and a parent, or between a grandparent and a grandchild.
Most often the scenario looks like this: one spouse purchased a handgun, and the other spouse decides to start carrying, but is not ready to purchase a firearm of their own, instead carrying one already owned by their spouse. It is perfectly acceptable for the wife/husband to carry a gun purchased by their spouse. If the gun is used in self-defense, the fact that it was purchased by the spouse is of no consequence in the self-defense analysis.
Persons Licensed to Carry Firearms
Let’s look at another example: you’re working in the garage and your friend stops by. You show him the new gun you just bought. He’s been considering getting the same gun himself and asks if he can borrow it and carry it for a couple of days. He has a License to Carry Firearms, so he meets the exception, and you know he’s not prohibited from possessing a firearm. You lend him the gun. The next evening, he’s walking down the street and a man jumps out with a gun and threatens him. So, he pulls out the gun he borrowed from you and fires in self-defense.
In this scenario, you are allowed to lend the firearm to your friend since he has a License to Carry Firearms. The use of force was justified because he reasonably believed he was in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury. He did not have the duty to retreat because the attacker displayed a weapon, and he could not retreat with complete safety. The fact that he was carrying a borrowed gun makes no difference whatsoever in this self-defense analysis.
Keep in mind, whenever you lend or borrow a firearm, the loan must be temporary in nature. You cannot give a handgun to another person without going through an FFL (Federal Firearm’s Licensed dealer) and the proper procedures for transferring a firearm. Under Pennsylvania law, all private transfers of “firearms” (which include handguns, but not conventional long guns) must go through either an FFL or the Sheriff’s Office. There is an exemption for transfers between spouses, parent and children, and grandparents and grandchildren. Calling it a “loan” when it really is a transfer is not a defense to an illegal transfer.
For any other questions regarding self-defense or the lending of firearms, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.