How to register or unregister a firearm

Frequently, clients will call and inquire how they can register or unregister a firearm. As both federal and state law come into play, both need to be addressed. First, 18 U.S.C. 926 provides, “…nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established.” Thus, with the exception of National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms, there is no registry of firearms at the federal level and such a registry is specifically precluded.

However, each state may have a registry of firearms, as nothing under federal law specifically precludes the states from maintaining such a registry or database. In Pennsylvania, we are fortunate that our legislator has enacted a similar prohibition to that of federal law. Pursuant to 18 PA.C.S. 6111.4, “Notwithstanding any section of this chapter to the contrary, nothing in this chapter shall be construed to allow any government or law enforcement agency or any agent thereof to create, maintain or operate any registry of firearm ownership within this Commonwealth. For the purposes of this section only, the term “firearm” shall include any weapon that is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” Accordingly, there is not registry of firearms in the Commonwealth.

Thus, there is no way to register a firearm in your name as no database or registry exists. Accordingly, it is impossible to unregister a firearm, as no registry exist from which to unregister. However, most District Attorneys will argue that “X firearm was registered to Y,” which is why it is important to have an attorney that is well versed in firearms law to prevent such an erroneous and fictitious statement from influencing the court.

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