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Yes, It’s Legal For Protesters To Carry Rifles At Pittsburgh Rallies

Gun rights advocates Stephen Korte, left, and his brother Austin Barnes demonstrate on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Last weekend, during a protest near Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square, several people online questioned the legality of a man openly carrying a rifle on a public city corner. According to Pennsylvania firearms laws, however, it’s perfectly legal.

Pennsylvania is known as an open carry state,” Pennsylvania State Police director of communications Cpl. Adam Reed said. “I mean, having a non-concealed handgun on your hip, or, in this case, a rifle slung across your shoulder.”

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Several anti-fascist, anti-racist protesters stand at the corner of Penn Avenue and Bakery Square Blvd. on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. At least two people in the group were carrying rifles on their backs, which is legal in Pennsylvania.

Barring anyone convicted of a violent crime, people in the country without documentation, or who have struggled with addiction or mental illness, recent DUI repeat offenders or those with a protection from abuse order against them, 18 year olds in Pennsylvania can apply to purchase a gun. With the exception of gun shows, most stores require a background check and the payment of some fees.

At 21 years old, residents can apply for a License to Carry Firearms, meaning they can keep their weapon in a holster or in their pocket, also known as conceal carry. Reed said this also extends to the transport of a loaded firearm.  

“Even if you are planning to open carry your firearm and you have that firearm in your vehicle, the second that loaded firearm goes into your vehicle and you don’t have a concealed carry permit, that’s going to be illegal,” Reed said.

Officers may approach someone open carrying their weapon, but Reed said that’s only to make sure they’re acting lawfully.

“We tell folks that decide to open carry: don’t be surprised if it draws the attention of the general public,” Reed said. “It’s something to keep in mind.”

Open carry is not allowed in Philadelphia, but is legal in every other Pennsylvania city. 

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community. kblackley@wesa.fm