Generally, a Defendant in a Protection From Abuse (“PFA”) action is ordered to relinquish their firearms to the sheriff or a third party pursuant to a temporary order or entry of a final PFA Order, except for cause shown at hearing. However, the Judge has discretion. Under the proposed new language, relinquishing any firearms would become mandatory.
Currently, the law allows for the relinquishment of a Defendant’s firearms to a third party such as a friend or family member, for safe-keeping instead of relinquishment to the sheriff or other law enforcement. The sheriff would issue a safe-keeping permit to the third party and the third-party would sign a safe-keeping affidavit on a Pennsylvania State Police form.
Recently, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 501 of 2017 was introduced. On March 21, 2018, Senate Bill 501 was passed unanimously by the Senate and will proceed to the House. It is expected that the House will pass the legislation promptly.
Notably, Senate Bill 501 adds Section 6105.2, which states that the Defendant shall relinquish firearm possession to the sheriff within 48 hours. If a Defendant fails to relinquish the firearms within 48 hours, immediate notice shall be given to the victim and the Court.
A Defendant would no longer be able to relinquish firearms to a third party for safekeeping while subject to a temporary or final PFA Order. The only exception is that the Defendant can relinquish the firearms to their attorney of record for the duration of the Order so long as the attorney enters into a written agreement noting that the firearms will not be given back to the Defendant, except in strict conformance with applicable law.
Finally, someone convicted of a misdemeanor offense for domestic violence would have 24 hours from the date of conviction to surrender any firearms to law enforcement.
While the changes are not drastic, it is important to be aware of the strict regulations on possession of firearms and notice to the victims of domestic abuse.