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Legal Review: Pennsylvania’s Annual Review of Background Check Standards Eliminates Virginia

By Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Amato Sanita and Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Thomas Soldan.

Pennsylvania law allows the state attorney general to review, on an annual basis, the concealed carry background check requirements of every state with which Pennsylvania has a reciprocal agreement to honor concealed carry permits.

If the attorney general determines that the laws of a state are not consistent with those of Pennsylvania, he or she can elect to terminate that reciprocal agreement.

This year, Pennsylvania’s reciprocal agreement with Virginia was terminated due to the attorney general’s finding that Virginia’s procedures for mental health, juvenile record and other background screenings fell short of the procedures used by Pennsylvania.

This means that holders of concealed carry permits in Virginia may be subject to prosecution in Pennsylvania if found in possession of a concealed weapon.

At the same time, Pennsylvania entered into agreements with Alabama and Idaho to recognize concealed carry permits issued in those states, finding that the background check procedures of those states were substantially similar to those of Pennsylvania.

“Each state is currently allowed to set its own rules regarding the issuance of concealed carry permits, as there is no federal standard governing their issuance,” said Thomas Soldan, a Virginia Gun Crimes Attorney in Leesburg, VA. “Virginia is a shall-issue concealed carry permit state, meaning that if a person meets all of the requirements, a permit shall be issued.”

Seventeen states have some form of concealed carry that does not require a permit, but only eight allow anyone, regardless of residency, to carry a weapon in a concealed manner without a permit.

On the other end of the spectrum, eight states simply do not issue concealed carry permits, even though there may be laws on the book authorizing the issuance of permits.

Amato Sanita, a Pennsylvania Gun Crimes Attorney in Philadelphia, PA, said that Pennsylvania’s decision to terminate its reciprocal agreement highlights the state’s unwillingness to bend when it comes to gun crime prosecution.

“Pennsylvania is very strict in its enforcement of gun charges and who has the legal right to possess a weapon,” he said. “Though the state issues permits, it does not do so lightly, and with this decision does not intend to let other states slide by.”

Virginia residents that have been issued permits to carry a concealed weapon must pay particular attention to the laws of any state they intend to travel to if they intend to carry their weapon with them in a concealed manner.

Failure to do so could result in a concealed weapons charge in another state, which can be as severe as a felony violation with mandatory jailtime. A conviction like that could affect one’s right to not only retain their concealed carry permit in their home state, but their rights to possess certain types of weapons, period.

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