It happens at least twice a month. A person attending a U.S. LawShield seminar approaches me during a break and asks, “Mike, can I speak with you in private for a minute?”

After we walk over to a distant corner, they tell me, “My grandfather gave me his old revolver, and I don’t think it’s registered! What do I do?”

I smile, and tell them, “Well I hope it isn’t registered, because there’s no such thing as handgun registration in Pennsylvania.”

They breathe a sigh of relief and wipe the sweat from their forehead. This is a very common misconception. In fact, I have witnessed prosecutors, county solicitors, and other attorneys ask on cross-examination whether a firearm in question is registered. The answer is, “No,” and Coronavirus has not changed that fact. 

Background checks and FFLs

Keep in mind that to complete certain firearms transfers, you must execute forms and submit to a background check.

Under federal law, this applies to all transfers that go from a Federal Firearms Licensee (a dealer) to a private individual. The individual receiving the firearm must execute an ATF Form 4473 (Firearms Transaction Record) and submit to a background check (National Instant Check System, or “NICS”). Furthermore, all transfers between residents of different states must go through a Federal Firearms Licensee, so the same procedures would apply.

Transfer of Handguns

In Pennsylvania, all transfers of a “firearm” (practically speaking, modern handguns, short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns – see 18 Pa.C.S. § 6102) must generally go through a federal firearms licensee or the sheriff’s office.

There are exemptions for transfers between spouses, between a parent and child or between a grandparent and grandchild. The transferee must execute a SP 4-113 (Pennsylvania State Police Application/Record of Sale) and submit to a background check. Some people mistakenly think that filling out documents such as an ATF Form 4473 or an SP 4-113 is registration. But, it isn’t.

Registration Required for NFA Items

There is one caveat. Items covered under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (Title 2 Firearms) require registration. These would include machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, silencers (suppressors), destructive devices, or AOWs (any other weapons).

If you have any questions regarding firearm law, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.