What happens to relinquished firearms?

Pennsylvania state law clearly delineates the process for how a person can retrieve a firearm that has either they have relinquished or that has been taken from them by court order. If your situation is applicable in either of these situations, you must follow the letter of the law to retrieve your firearm. Otherwise, as specified by the following statute, it will be destroyed at the appropriate time.

ACT 79

CRIMES CODE (18 PA.C.S.) AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS CODE (23 PA.C.S.) - OMNIBUS AMENDMENTS
  Act of Oct. 12, 2018, P.L. 519, No. 79 Cl. 18

Session of 2018

No. 2018-79

Section 7.  Section 6108.1(a) and (b) of Title 23 are amended and the section is amended by adding subsections to read:

§ 6108.1.  Return of relinquished firearms, other weapons and ammunition and additional relief.

(a)  General rule.--Any court order requiring the relinquishment of firearms, other weapons or ammunition shall provide for the return of the relinquished firearms, other weapons or ammunition to the defendant upon expiration of the order or dismissal of a petition for a protection from abuse order. The defendant may take custody of the firearms, other weapons and ammunition provided that the defendant is otherwise eligible to lawfully possess the relinquished items. The defendant shall not be required to pay any fees, costs or charges associated with the returns, whether those fees, costs or charges are imposed by the Pennsylvania State Police, any local law enforcement agency or any other entity, including a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer or licensed dealer in order to secure return of the relinquished firearms, other weapons or ammunition. The sheriff's or the appropriate law enforcement agency's office shall maintain a weapons return form that the defendant may fill out and return to the office once a temporary or final protection from abuse order has been dismissed or expires.

(a.1)  Conditions for return.--The following conditions must be satisfied prior to the firearms, other weapons or ammunition being returned to the defendant:

(1)  The firearms, other weapons or ammunition relinquished must not be evidence of a crime.

(2)  The defendant or owner must not be otherwise prohibited by applicable Federal or State law, or another condition, including, but not limited to, bail, from taking possession of the firearms, other weapons or ammunition seized.

(3)  The defendant or owner must have been given a clearance by the Pennsylvania State Police Instant Check System Unit or through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), requested by the sheriff's office.

(a.2)  Notice to plaintiff.--The plaintiff of the protection from abuse order shall be notified of the defendant's request to return the firearms, other weapons or ammunition.

(a.3)  Petition for return.--If there is a determination under subsection (a.1) that the defendant is ineligible to regain possession of the firearms, other weapons or ammunition, the defendant or owner may file a petition appealing that determination and seeking their return. A copy of the petition must be served upon the plaintiff, sheriff and the district attorney.

(a.4)  Abandonment.--Any firearms, other weapons or ammunition shall be deemed abandoned when the conditions under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6128(a) (relating to abandonment of firearms, weapons or ammunition) are satisfied and may then be disposed of in accordance with 18 Pa.C.S. § 6128.

§ 6128.  Abandonment of firearms, weapons or ammunition.

(a)  General rule.--Firearms, weapons or ammunition which are itemized on a list required under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108(a)(7)(v) (relating to relief) or the possession or acquisition of which is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) (relating to unlawful acts) and relinquished into or otherwise coming into the custody of a police department, Pennsylvania State Police, coroner, medical examiner, district attorney, sheriff or licensed dealer shall be deemed abandoned when:

(1)  Relinquished by its lawful owner pursuant to court order or executed warrant, and no written request to return or otherwise dispose of the firearms, weapons or ammunition is made by the lawful owner or the lawful owner's attorney or duly appointed representative after a period of one year from the date an order of relinquishment or seizure has expired.

(2)  Found, discovered or otherwise passed into the custody of the police department, Pennsylvania State Police, coroner, medical examiner, district attorney, sheriff or licensed dealer and no owner can be determined after a documented search of the database of firearms sales maintained by the Pennsylvania State Police is made at the time the firearms come into the custody of the police department, coroner, medical examiner, district attorney, sheriff or licensed dealer and is again made one year from the date of the first documented search.

(b)  Methods of disposal.--If firearms, weapons or ammunition are deemed abandoned under subsection (a), the custodian may dispose of the firearms, weapons or ammunition by:

(1)  Arranging for the sale of the firearms, weapons or ammunition to a federally licensed firearms dealer by sealed bid with proceeds of the sale to be retained by the custodian.

(2)  Arranging for the lawful and complete destruction of the firearms, weapons or ammunition. Firearms, weapons or ammunition that cannot lawfully be sold to a federally licensed firearms dealer in this Commonwealth shall be destroyed.

(c)  Limitation.--A custodian may not dispose of firearms, weapons or ammunition deemed abandoned under subsection (a)(1) without first notifying the person who relinquished the firearms, weapons or ammunition. If the person who relinquished the firearms, weapons or ammunition fails to respond within 20 days to the notice, the custodian may proceed with disposal of the firearms, weapons or ammunition. Notification shall be by certified mail to:

(1)  an address where the person relinquishing the firearms, weapons or ammunition is now known by the custodian to reside;

(2)  the last known address of the person relinquishing the firearms, weapons or ammunition;

(3)  the address of the person relinquishing the firearms, weapons or ammunition which was provided at the time of relinquishment; or

(4)  the address of the person relinquishing the firearms, weapons or ammunition which is found after searching the available sources of address data maintained in the Commonwealth's databases of motor vehicle registration, motor vehicle driver licensing, occupational and professional licensure, corrections facilities and public assistance.