Question - So I can drive around with all the loaded pistols I like, but have a mag in a rifle.............and it's a trip to the pokey.
Yes. Maybe. Depending upon a bunch of things.
Here is how it works.
Title 18 (crimes code) Chapter 61 ("Firearms and Other Dangerous Articles") defines "firearm" to mean a pistol or revolver with a barrel length of less than 15", any shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18", and any rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26". Nothing else is a "firearm."
Section 6106(a)(1) (which applies only to "firearms") makes it a felony of the third degree for any person to "carry a firearm in a vehicle" or to "carry a firearm concealed on or about his person" (with some presently immaterial exceptions), unless he has a "valid and lawfully issued license under this chapter."
However, Section 6106(a)(2) provides that a person who is "otherwise eligible to posses a valid license under this chapter," but who has no such license, only commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he carries a "firearm" in an vehicle or concealed on or about his person.
Query: Is one armed with a pistol and sitting in a stationary vehicle "carrying a firearm in a vehicle"? (Probably yes).
Query: Is one carrying a firearm in a vehicle which is not concealed ("open carry") committing a crime? (Yes. For this purpose, the statute says "carry," and does not distinguish between "open carry" and "concealed on or about the person." Different rules apply outside a vehicle.)
Query: Is one carrying a rifle longer than 26 inches in a vehicle committing a crime? (Not under this section, regardless whether the individual is licensed. This section only applies to "firearms." BUT . . . )
Our Legislature then passed 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 6106.1. That Section provides that "no person shall carry a LOADED pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle, OTHER THAN A FIREARM [as previously defined] in any vehicle." The statute goes on to specify that if carrying in a vehicle is not allowed under Section 6106, it is not allowed under 6106.1. Exceptions to this section are made for those who are exempt from the license requirement of Section 6016, and for those who are allowed to carry under certain provisions of the Game Code,
Translation: Carrying a "firearm" is not governed Section 6106.1, it is covered by Sec. 6106, so whatever you are allowed to carry in a vehicle under Sec. 6106 (a "firearm" if you have a license) you are allowed to carry in a vehicle. Otherwise, no "loaded" pistols, revolvers, rifles or shotguns cannot be carried in a vehicle. Since 6106 does not pertain to rifles or shotguns, there is no circumstance where a "loaded" rifle or a shotgun can lawfully be carried in a vehicle (other than the exceptions and exemptions noted in the statute). Because Section 6101.1 only applies to "loaded" guns, and Section 6101 does not apply to rifles or shotguns longer than 26" or shotguns with a barrel longer than 18", there is no prohibition on carrying a rifle or shotgun which is not "loaded."
However, the penalty under Sec. 6106.1 is to make it a summary offense, not a felony or misdemeanor. You don't go to the pokey for a summary offense.
(1) "Loaded" has a special statutory definition. It includes both loaded as we commonly understand the term AND, where a weapon has a detachable magazine, a weapon is "loaded where there is a loaded (or partially loaded) magazine in the same container with the weapon OR, where a container has several compartments, in the same compartment of the same container with the weapon.
(2) The definition of "firearm" in Sec. 6106 does not contain the qualifier "loaded," so it would appear to be illegal for one who is not licensed to carry an unloaded "firearm" in a vehicle or concealed, under Sec. 6106.
If you want me to cover the exceptions, exemptions, judicial interpretations of the applicable terms, sentence options, or potential statutory or constitutional defenses, you have to make an appointment and see me in my office. In the alternative, you can enroll in either Basic Tactical Carbine or Basic Tactical Pistol from PFDC, where I cover the use of deadly force and answer GENERAL legal questions related to firearms after lunch on day two. (I will not discuss an individual case in the PFDC courses.)
I hope by now it is quite clear to all that one who gets his legal advice over the Internet, from a local policeman or out of a paperback book gets what he pays for. Anybody can read the words. It takes years to understand how it all works.
The more you know of the basics, the more advanced you are.