PA Sees Nearly 50 Percent Increase in Firearms Purchase Denials in First Quarter of 2020 vs. First Quarter of 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The number of firearms purchase denials in Pennsylvania rose nearly 50 percent in the first quarter of 2020 from the first quarter of 2019 despite not even a 15 percent increase in checks conducted.

Numbers released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania State Police showed 4,866 people were denied the purchase of a firearm through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) used by county sheriffs, chiefs of police of cities of the first class, and licensed firearms dealers in Pennsylvania to determine an individual’s legal ability to acquire a license to carry firearms or obtain a firearm through a purchase or transfer in the first quarter of 2020 (Jan. 1 through March 31).

That was up from 3,260 denials during the same period in 2019, an increase of 49.3 percent. This despite the number of total PICS checks conducted rising only 14.4 percent from 266,442 in the first quarter of 2019 to 304,876 in the first quarter of 2020.

According to PSP, when an individual provides false information on a state and/or federal form, an investigation is initiated and an investigation referral is sent to the corresponding law enforcement agency.

In Pennsylvania, a person commits a felony of the third degree if they make a false oral or written statement on any federal or state agency form or willfully presents false identification that is likely to deceive a firearm seller, licensed dealer, or licensed manufacturer. During the PICS process, individuals may also be identified as having an active warrant for their arrest.

During the first quarter of 2020, the following investigations were initiated by the state police Firearms Division and referred to troops, municipal police departments, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for further investigation and possible prosecution. Statistics for the first quarter of 2019 are included for comparison.


First Quarter PICS Statistics 2019 2020
Total number of PICS checks conducted 266,442 304,876
     Number of persons denied 3,260 4,866
Total number of denials referred to law enforcement agencies 586 1,226
     Referred to Pennsylvania State Police 183 357
     Referred to Local Law Enforcement 396 859
     Referred to ATF 7 10
Number of individuals arrested for a warrant at point of purchase 42 59

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