RUMOR CONTROL: Pennsylvania

Editor's Note, September 2010: Laws and rules change. While the author sought to ensure accuracy at the time this article was published, it is incumbent upon the reader to verify any potential changes since then.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article is no longer being updated by the author and will become increasingly out-dated.

Rumors once circulated, and still persist on the Internet, that the Pennsylvania State Police (specifically) are not honoring non-resident licenses from Florida, despite the reciprocity agreement stating the following, with no wording to distinguish between a resident or non-resident license:

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will recognize valid Florida licenses to carry concealed firearms by valid Florida permit holders while said permit holders are present in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The rumor notes that other Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies and departments correctly honor the Florida non-resident license, true to the letter and spirit of the reciprocity agreement between the two states, and that the problem is limited only to the State Police.

However, there is a letter dated July 16, 2007, from Colonel Jeffrey B. Miller, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, addressed to The Honorable Phyllis Mundy of the House of Representatives for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The letter assures that it is the policy of the Pennsylvania State Police to honor permits from states with which Pennsylvania has reciprocity. Although the letter references the obtaining of out-of-state non-resident licenses by residents of Pennsylvania, and that such licenses would be honored in PA, I can find nothing in it that suggests that non-resident licenses carried by non-residents of Pennsylvania, would not be honored.

The relevant paragraph in that letter reads as follows:

Under Title 18 Pa. C.S. 6109(k) Reciprocity, the Pennsylvania Attorney General has the power to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states. The Uniform Firearms Act does not prohibit a Pennsylvania resident from obtaining a concealed weapons permit from another state. If the permit issued is obtained from a state in which the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has entered into a current reciprocity agreement, that permit would be valid in Pennsylvania under the agreement.

The full letter can be viewed at the following link:

Based on my research, it is my belief that this all began with a Pennsylvania resident obtaining the Florida non-resident license, without first having received a Pennsylvania resident license. A Pennsylvania State Trooper, not realizing that a PA resident is not required to carry on a PA license, within the borders of Pennsylvania, may have performed an arrest despite the Florida non-resident license being perfectly valid. You see, unlike most non-resident licenses, it is entirely possible to obtain the Florida non-resident license, without first possessing a valid resident license from your home state. Florida does not require, nor ask for, copies of any other licenses before processing a non-resident application. You basically “start fresh” in the eyes of Florida, having to meet all the requirements of a Florida resident, regardless of any other licenses you may (or may not) possess. It would be entirely possible for a Pennsylvania resident to skip the PA license, and go directly to a Florida non-resident license.

For my own peace of mind, it may still be prudent after all, to retain the Pennsylvania non-resident license, regardless of whether I renew Florida, to preserve PA with all certainty. At only $26, and for the ease and speed with which the license was obtained, the PA non-resident license is cheap insurance against any threat of arrest due to a misunderstanding of the law by an LEO.

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