Pennsylvania and federal statutes define a wide range of crimes that relate to firearms. Thousands of individuals in Pennsylvania face prosecution for gun-related crimes annually. Those convicted can receive significant sentences that include imprisonment, fines, and loss of their civil liberties (including the right to possess firearms).
Here is a review of the top five gun-related crimes committed in Pennsylvania according to statistics from law enforcement and the courts. If state or federal law enforcement authorities have accused you or someone close to you of a crime involving a gun in Pennsylvania, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately.
Gun-Related Crimes in Pennsylvania
According to data published by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and Pennsylvania’s Uniform Crime Reporting System (UCRS), the most common type of gun-related crime committed in Pennsylvania is the illegal possession of a firearm. More than 10,000 state-law gun possession offenses and thousands more federal gun possession crimes were committed in the Keystone State in a recent year, according to official data. Many of those offenses involved a prohibited person having a gun (see below). But they also covered other gun-related misconduct, including
- Possessing prohibited firearms (such as guns without serial numbers)
- Taking a gun to a restricted location like a courthouse or school
- Illegal gun sales
- Making false statements when purchasing a gun
- Violations of state and local licensing requirements for concealed carry or open carry
- Transporting a loaded gun in a vehicle
- Persons previously convicted of certain crimes, including violent felonies, drug offenses, and domestic violence
- Illegal aliens
- Those under the age of 18 or 21, depending on the type of gun involved
- Certain individuals subject to an active protection from abuse order/restraining order
- Anyone whom a court has judged to be mentally incompetent or has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
Within this category, possession of a firearm by a previously convicted individual is especially common. Pennsylvania state and federal prosecutors routinely charge felon-in-possession cases, many arising from traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, or search warrants in which police find a gun while looking for evidence of some other crime.
Assault With a Firearm
After weapons possession crimes, the next most common category of Pennsylvania gun crimes, according to state data, is assault with a firearm. An assault is any act that causes or attempts to cause physical harm to another person or puts someone in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. Shooting, pointing, or brandishing a gun at someone can constitute an assault crime in Pennsylvania. UCRS statistics reflect that more than 7,000 such crimes were committed in Pennsylvania in a recent year.
Robbery With a Firearm
Robbery involves taking property by force or threat of force. According to UCRS, more than 4,000 robberies with guns occurred in the Keystone State in a recent year. Guns are the most common weapon used in robberies in Pennsylvania. Police and prosecutors may charge a robbery with a gun offense even if the gun was not pointed at the alleged robbery victim.
Homicide With a Firearm
The Pennsylvania State Police report that guns were used in the commission of 77% of homicides in the Commonwealth in a recent year. Data sources disagree on the precise number of gun-related homicides that reflects, but it is almost certainly somewhere between 350 and 700. The tally includes gun-involved murder (the intentional taking of life with a gun) and manslaughter (the negligent accidental taking of life with a gun).
Gun Possession Sentencing Enhancement
In addition to gun crimes, state and federal laws also impose sentencing enhancements when a person has or uses a gun while committing a crime. In other words, even if a crime does not specifically involve guns—for example, drug distribution—a person charged with it faces a higher sentence if they possessed or used a gun while committing it. Pennsylvania and federal courts impose this enhancement in thousands of cases every year, typically resulting in extra months or years of imprisonment for the convicted individual.
The Importance of Hiring a Gun Crime Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a gun-related crime in Pennsylvania either by a state or federal prosecutor, your rights and freedom are in danger. If convicted, you could face significant prison time, fines, and personal losses. The only reliable way to protect yourself against the worst of those outcomes is to hire a knowledgeable gun crime defense lawyer immediately.
A lawyer can take the necessary steps to shield you from accusations and potential punishments. Those steps may include:
- Investigating the allegations to find evidence the police may have overlooked or chosen to ignore
- Identifying violations of your rights that could justify dismissal of the charges or suppression of the evidence against you
- Negotiating charge reductions, plea agreements, or sentencing recommendations with prosecutors, when appropriate
- Taking your case to trial to challenge the government’s accusations and present a compelling case for acquittal
- Convincing a court to hand down the most lenient sentence possible
The importance of having a skilled lawyer is at its height in Pennsylvania gun-related crime cases. Prosecutors take a harsh view of gun-related offenses and pursue them aggressively. Similarly, judges in Pennsylvania tend to come down hard on criminal defendants who violate gun laws or possess guns while committing crimes. Hiring an attorney who knows how to blunt the impact of any gun-related aspect of your case is essential.
Gun Crime Questions? Contact Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., Today
At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we are an award-winning criminal defense law firm representing clients in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our team aggressively defends clients against gun crime charges and the potential consequences of a conviction. If authorities in Bucks County or Montgomery County have charged you or your loved one with any crime involving a gun, contact us online or call us at (215) 822-7575 immediately to connect with a knowledgeable legal professional who can explain your rights and what to do next.