If I have a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry a Firearm (LTCF), may I legally carry a loaded firearm on my ATV or Snowmobile in Pennsylvania for self-defense purposes?
By Katy McShane, Esquire
At first glance, it may seem like this is a quick post in that the answer is: “no.” This would be misleading and almost completely wrong. In order to find the true and complete answer, there are a number of Pennsylvania laws that must be read together to form a complete picture.
The answer is if you have a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry a Firearm (“LTCF”), you are permitted to carry a loaded “firearm” (as defined in the UFA meaning a handgun, SBS or SBR) on an ATV or Snowmobile for purposes of self-defense ONLY. You may not carry a loaded firearm for any other reason, even if you have a valid LTCF. Specifically, you cannot hunt with that firearm.
Our analysis starts in Title 75, Chapter 77 of the Pennsylvania Statutes. Section 7727 states that you may not carry a loaded firearm on a snowmobile or ATV. If we were to end our analysis here, it would readily appear as though loaded firearms are prohibited on snowmobiles and ATVs for all reasons and in all situations. However, we must look to the exceptions laid out in Title 34, the Pennsylvania Game Code. Title 34 addresses loaded firearms in vehicles in section 2503, which provides a general rule that loaded firearms are prohibited in vehicles but for certain exceptions. One of the enumerated exceptions is for a person “carrying a loaded pistol or revolver when in possession of a valid firearms license issued…for protection.”
A further analysis of Title 34 takes us to section 2525, which specifically states that it is lawful for a holder of a valid LTCF to carry a firearm, loaded or unloaded, while engaged in any activity regulated by title 34. However, it is equally clear from this title that it can be carried for self-defense only and not for hunting or harvesting wildlife.
Finally, we take a look at Title 18, Chapter 61 – the Uniform Firearms Act. Section 6109 relates to Licenses to Carry. Subsection m.2 addresses inconsistent provisions that may be found throughout the Pennsylvania Statutes and specifically addresses 75 Pa.C.S. § 7727. §6109(m.2) grants permission for a holder of a valid LTCF to carry a loaded firearm even though §7727 seems to prohibit such act.
It is important to note that the definition of “firearm” comes from Title 18, Section 6102. A firearm for purposes of these exception is any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches or any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. This means a modern handgun, a short-barrel rifle or short-barrel shotgun (both of which require an NFA tax stamp to lawfully possess).
These exceptions do not apply to long guns – so long guns cannot be carried loaded on an ATV or Snowmobile at any time.
In reading all of these statutes together, we can put the puzzle pieces together and see that if you are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm, and you have a valid LTCF, you can carry a loaded firearm (meaning a modern handgun, lawfully registered SBS or SBR) while on an ATV or Snowmobile for purposes of self-defense only, but not for any other purpose.
The text of the pertinent statutes is below.
75 Pa.C.S. §7727 reads as follows:
- 7727. Additional Limitations on operation.
Except as otherwise permitted under Title 34 (relating to game), no person shall”
- Operate or ride in any snowmobile or ATV with any bow and arrows or with any firearm in his possession unless it is unstrung or unloaded.
- Drive or pursue any game or wildlife with a snowmobile or an ATV.
34 Pa.C.S. §2503 reads as follows:
- 2503. Loaded firearms in vehicles.
(a) General rule.–Except as otherwise provided in this title, it is unlawful for any person to have a firearm of any kind in or on or against any conveyance propelled by mechanical power or its attachments at any time whether or not the vehicle or its attachment is in motion unless the firearm is unloaded. The exceptions in this subsection do not apply when attempting to locate game or wildlife with an artificial light or when exercising any privileges granted by this title which may be exercised only when not in the possession of a firearm.
(b) Exceptions.–This section shall not be construed to apply to:
(1) A police officer engaged in the performance of his official duty.
(2) A commission officer engaged in the performance of his duty.
(3) A person carrying a loaded pistol or revolver when in possession of a valid firearms license issued by the chief or head of any police force or the sheriff of a county when the license is issued for protection under 18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 61 Subch. A (relating to Uniform Firearms Act).
(4) Any person as defined in section 2121(c) (relating to killing game or wildlife to protect property) while on lands they control and when not hunting or trapping for game or wildlife.
(5) Any motorboat or other craft having a motor attached or any sailboat if the motor has been completely shut off or the sail furled and its progress therefrom has ceased.
(6) Any political subdivision, its employees or agents, which has a valid deer control permit issued under section 2902(c) (relating to general categories of permits).
The exceptions in paragraphs (1) through (5) do not apply when attempting to locate game or wildlife with an artificial light or when exercising any privileges granted by this title which may be exercised only when not in the possession of a firearm.
(c) Penalty.–A violation of this section is a summary offense of the fourth degree if the vehicle is in motion. Otherwise the violation is a summary offense of the fifth degree.
34 Pa.C.S. §2525 reads as follows:
- 2525. Possession of firearm for protection of self or others.
(a) General rule.–It is lawful for a law enforcement officer or any person who possesses a valid license to carry a firearm issued under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6109 (relating to licenses) to be in possession of a loaded or unloaded firearm while engaged in any activity regulated by this title.
(1) This section shall supersede any prohibition on the possession of a firearm or ammunition contained in any other provision of this title.
(2) This subsection shall not be construed to permit the hunting or harvesting of any wildlife with a firearm or ammunition not otherwise permitted by this title.
(c) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:
“Firearm.” As defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6102 (relating to definitions).
“Law enforcement officer.” As defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6102(relating to definitions).
18 Pa.C.S. § 6109 reads as follows:
- 6109. Licenses.
(a) Purpose of license.— A license to carry a firearm shall be for the purpose of carrying a firearm concealed on or about one’s person or in a vehicle throughout this Commonwealth.
(m.2) Inconsistent provisions.— Notwithstanding the provisions of section 7506 (relating to violation of rules regarding conduct on Commonwealth property), 75 Pa.C.S. §7727 (relating to additional limitations on operation) or the act of June 28, 1995 (P.L. 89, No. 18), known as the Conservation and Natural Resourses Act, and regulations promulgated under that act, a firearm may be carries as provided in subsection (a) by :
(1) a law enforcement officer whose current identification as a law enforcement officer shall be construed as a valid license to carry a firearm; or
(2) any licensee.