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Common Criminal Issues Related to the Discharge of a Weapon

Americans have a constitutionally protected right to bear arms. However, there are laws and ordinances in states, cities and other local municipal governments that regulate how these firearms may be used.

Below are a few common examples of laws related to the discharge of a weapon:

  • Unlawful discharge: Unlawful discharge is the most general category of a discharge law violation. These laws usually punish people for illegally firing traditional firearms like as pistols and shotguns, but can also be applied in cases involving BB guns, pellet guns and bows. Unlawful discharge laws have detailed regulations on where and the circumstances under which these weapons can and cannot be fired.
  • Illegal use: Illegal use laws go beyond the unlawful discharge of a weapon to prohibit conduct like brandishing a firearm in a threatening way, firing within a certain distance of a school, or handling or firing a weapon while intoxicated.
  • Negligent discharge: You cannot be charged with unlawful discharge if the weapon was fired accidentally. However, you can be charged with negligent or careless discharge. This often arises when a person is cleaning a gun and does not realize it is loaded.
  • Location and time laws: Many municipalities have laws on the firing of a weapon in specific geographic areas, such as within the boundaries of the city. In other places, it is illegal to fire a weapon even on private property. Exceptions often include shooting ranges, firing blanks at athletic competitions, and firing in self-defense.

For more information on the laws that regulate the discharge of a weapon in Pennsylvania, contact experienced Berks County criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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