See our Gun Dealers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.
Pennsylvania law requires all retail firearms dealers to be licensed by the state.1 A license will be revoked if the licensee:
- Fails to conduct business only where designated in the license or at a lawful gun show or meet;
- Fails to display the license on the premises;
- Sells any firearm in violation of Pennsylvania law;
- Sells a firearm to a purchaser without evidence of the purchaser’s identity unless the purchaser is personally known to the licensee;
- Fails to keep a record in triplicate of every firearm sold and retain the records for 20 years;
- Displays any handguns or short-barreled rifles or shotguns2 where they can be readily seen from outside the premises;
- Fails to store firearms securely when closed for business in the event of a clear and present danger to public safety as declared by the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”); or
- Fails to possess all applicable current revenue licenses.3
By signing the application for a license to sell firearms, the applicant is acknowledging that if a license is granted, the applicant gives permission to PSP, or their designee, and the issuing authority, to visit the licensee’s business location and inspect the premises, records, and documents without a warrant.4
When an unlicensed person sells or transfer a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun to another unlicensed person, he or she must do so upon the place of business of a licensed dealer, and the dealer must follow the procedures for the transfer as if he or she were the seller of the firearm.5
Pennsylvania law only regulates the storage of firearms and ammunition by dealers when closed for business in an area where the Commissioner of PSP has found a clear and present danger to public safety to exist.8
Retail firearms dealer licenses are issued by the chief or head of any police force or police department of a city, and, elsewhere, the sheriff of the county, and are valid for three years.9
For information about the Pennsylvania law:
- Requiring a locking device to accompany the sale of a firearm, see the Pennsylvania Locking Devices section.
- Limiting sales of ammunition, see the Pennsylvania Ammunition Regulation section.
- Requiring federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks on firearm purchasers, see the Pennsylvania Background Checks section.
- Requiring dealers to maintain records of sales, see the Pennsylvania Retention of Sales / Background Check Records section.
- Applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, see the Pennsylvania Private Sales section.
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6112.
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6102(2).
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6113. For information about applications for a Pennsylvania license to sell firearms, see 37 Pa. Code § 33.116.
- 37 Pa. Code § 33.116(c).
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(c). A person violating these provisions who has already been convicted under them previously (in other words, a repeat offender), receives an enhanced punishment under Pennsylvania law. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(h).
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6125; 37 Pa. Code § 33.111(d)(5).
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6125.
- 37 Pa. Code §§ 31.101-31.106.
- 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6113(a).