Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse Order and Firearm Possession Prohibition

Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders are Pennsylvania’s version of civil restraining orders and generally prohibit a person from harassing, stalking, or threatening a family member, household member, or a sexual or intimate partner. Some PFA Orders expressly prohibit a person from possessing a firearm, but other Orders do not.

The problem is that a PFA often triggers a Federal firearm prohibition under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). That section of the law requires that the PFA was sought by an “intimate partner,” which is defined at 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(32) as being the “spouse of the person, a former spouse of the person, an individual who is a parent of a child of the person, and an individual who cohabitates or has cohabited with the person.” There is also a requirement that the PFA was issued after a hearing at which the person had the opportunity to participate and challenge the PFA order, and the judge found that the person was a credible threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner.

This basically means that if a person proceeds to a PFA hearing, and, after hearing the testimony, the judge issues a standard PFA order prohibiting a person from stalking or harassing an intimate partner, then the person is prohibited under Federal law from possessing a firearm while the PFA order is in effect. This means that the PFA order is NOT a lifetime prohibition for firearm possession for a misdemeanor conviction. The prohibition is only in effect while the PFA is active, so if the PFA order is withdrawn, rescinded, or expires, then the person’s ability to possess a firearm is restored.