Gun laws in Virginia
|Subject/Law||Long Guns||Handguns||Relevant Statutes||Notes|
|State permit required to purchase?||No||No|
|Firearm registration?||No||No||§ 18.2-295||Fully automatic firearms (machine guns) are required to be registered with the state police.|
|Owner license required?||No||No||Proof of age and citizenship required for the purchase of firearms.|
|Permit required for concealed carry?||N/A||Yes||§ 18.2-308||Virginia is a "shall issue" state for concealed carry. Permits are issued to residents and non-residents. As of January 1, 2021, the option of obtaining training via an electronic, video or online course will be removed.
|Permit required for open carry?||No||No||§ 15.2-915.2||Open carry is generally allowed without a permit for people 18 years of age and older. The following cities and counties have exceptions that disallow the open carry of "assault weapons" (any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or is designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock) or shotguns equipped with a magazine that holds more than 7 rounds: the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach and in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, and Prince William. These restrictions do not apply to valid concealed carry permit holders. Stated differently, one may open carry an assault weapon/shotgun with more than 7 rounds with a permit in the aforementioned locations, but do not need a permit to do so in any other locality in Virginia.
|State preemption of local restrictions?||Yes||Yes||§ 15.2-915||Virginia has state preemption for most but not all firearm laws. As of July 1, 2020, local governments have expanded power to ban firearms in certain sensitive areas, such as government buildings and public events.|
|Assault weapon law?||Yes||Yes||§ 18.2-308.2:2
||Proof of age (18+ for long arms, 21+ for pistols) and proof of citizenship (or permanent residence license) are required for the purchase of "assault weapons". "Assault weapons" are defined as a semi-automatic, centerfire, firearm equipped with a folding stock, or equipped at the time with a magazine capable of holding more than 20 rounds, or capable of accommodating a silencer/suppressor.|
|Magazine restriction?||No||No||§ 18.2-287.4
||Magazines capable of holding more than 20 rounds are legal but, they make the firearm an "assault weapon", subject to law accordingly.|
|NFA weapons restricted?||No||No||§ 18.2-308.8
|Fully automatic firearms (machine guns) must be registered with the state police. Plastic firearms and some destructive devices (such as the striker 12 shotgun) are prohibited outside law enforcement. SBS, SBR, AOWs, and suppressors are legal with NFA paperwork.|
|Background checks required for private sales?||Yes||Yes||18.2-308.2:5||As of July 1, 2020, firearms sellers, with some exceptions, must obtain criminal history information from the Virginia State Police to determine if a firearm buyer is permitted, under applicable state and federal law, to purchase or possess firearms. Notably, the law does not apply to transfers of firearms in which nothing of value is exchanged for the firearm. The penalty for noncompliance with the law is a Class 1 misdemeanor. In Virginia, Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine.|
|Red flag law?||Yes||Yes||A judge can issue an Extreme Risk Protective Order, enabling the police to temporarily confiscate the firearms of a person deemed to be at high risk of harming themselves or others.|
|Gun laws in Virginia|
|Constitution sections||Article I, §13.|
|Preemption and local regulation|
|Preemption sections||§ 15.2-915.,|
|Ownership registration sections||§ 18.2–295.|
|Restricted or prohibited items|
|Restricted firearms sections||§ 18.2–308.8.,|
|Restricted or prohibited places|
|Restricted places sections||§ 18.2–283.,|
AG Opinion 11-043,
GA JRC Rule,
|Restricted or prohibited persons|
|Underage persons sections||§ 18.2–56.2.,|
|Alien persons sections||§ 18.2–308.2:01.|
|Restricted persons sections||§ 18.2–308.1:1.,|
|Convicted persons sections||§ 18.2–290.,|
|Manufacturing regulations sections||§ 18.2–294.,|
|Sale, purchase, and transfer|
|Dealer regulations sections||§ 18.2–294.,|
|Private sale regulations sections||§ 18.2–308.2:1.,|
|Transportation and carry|
|Transportation restrictions sections||§ 15.2–915.2.,|
|Open carry restrictions sections||§ 18.2–308.|
|Concealed carry restrictions sections||§ 18.2–308,|
Historians trace Virginia's first experience with gun control laws back to the First General Assembly of Jamestown on July 30, 1619. During this-five day meeting, Virginia officials voted in a gun control enactment which regulated the sale of firearms to Native Americans. In fact, each period of American history brought with it its own series of gun control regulations in Virginia. More recently, in the fallout of the Virginia Beach mass shooting in the summer of 2019, Governor Northam's Democrat controlled General Assembly have attempted to pass substantial new gun control legislation. In February 2020, a proposed assault weapons ban failed in the Virginia Senate. In April 2020, several new gun laws were enacted, including a requirement of background checks for private sales, a red flag law enabling Extreme Risk Protection Orders, a requirement to report lost or stolen guns, and the reinstating of a one-handgun-a-month law.
The Constitution of Virginia protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms from government infringement. The Commonwealth of Virginia preempts local regulation of several aspects of firearms, though some local regulation is explicitly permitted. Virginia passed the Uniform Machine Gun Act, which was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The only firearms in Virginia that are prohibited are the Armsel Striker, also known as the Striker 12, similar shotguns, and any "plastic firearms." Firearms must contain at least 3.7 ounces of electromagnetically detectable metal in the barrel, slide, cylinder, frame or receiver, and when subjected to x-ray machines, generate an image that accurately depicts their shape. For example, Glock pistols which have polymer frames and metal slides and barrels are legal. There are no magazine capacity limitations, except that a concealed handgun permit (CHP) is required in order to carry magazines with more than 20 rounds in some urban, public areas.
Prohibited places include courthouses, air carrier terminals, schools, child day centers, the Capitol and General Assembly buildings (as of early 2020), and churches, though some exceptions apply, including a 2011 Attorney General opinion that personal protection constitutes good and sufficient reason to carry at a church. George Mason University, James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Polytechnic University (Virginia Tech) currently possess rules that prohibit firearms on school property.
A 2006 opinion issued by State Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell stated "... the governing boards of Virginia's public colleges and universities may not impose a general prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons by permitted individuals ... Pursuant to specific grants of statutory authority, however, it is my opinion that colleges and universities may regulate the conduct of students and employees to prohibit them from carrying concealed weapons on campus."
In 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court found that the language used by George Mason University (GMU) to "... not impose a total ban of weapons on campus. Rather, the regulation is tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable – inside campus buildings and at campus events. Individuals may still carry or possess weapons on the open grounds of GMU, and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation."
There are age restrictions on the possession of firearms and some people are prohibited from possessing firearms due to certain criminal convictions. Licensed dealers must have the Virginia State Police conduct a background check prior to completing the sale of certain firearms. Persons who are not in the business of selling firearms, but make occasional, private sales, are not required to perform a background check before selling their firearms. Before July 1, 2012, a person could not purchase more than one handgun per 30-day period, though some exceptions applied; most significantly, holders of valid Concealed Handgun Permits (CHP) from Virginia were exempt from this restriction. The bill that repealed the "one-handgun-a-month law" was signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell on February 28 of that year.
Open carry of a handgun without a permit is legal in Virginia at age 18, withstanding other applicable laws. Concealed carry of a handgun is allowed for persons who hold a valid CHP (concealed handgun permit), comply with certain restrictions, or who hold certain positions. Virginia shall issue a CHP to applicants 21 years of age or older, provided that they meet certain safety training requirements and do not have any disqualifying conditions under Title § 18.2-308.09 of the Virginia Code. Consuming an alcoholic beverage in ABC on-premises licensed restaurants and clubs, while carrying a concealed handgun, is prohibited; nor may any person carry a concealed handgun in a public place while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs (exceptions made for federal, state and local law enforcement). Any person permitted to carry a concealed firearm may not carry one in such manner in a public place while intoxicated. Possession of a firearm can compound the penalty for various other offenses, including illegal drug possession. Open carry while intoxicated is not addressed in the law and can presumed to be legal unless otherwise specified.
There are some restrictions on the use of weapons. Brandishing a firearm is punishable by up to a year in jail.
In March 2020, the Virginia State Legislature passed 7 gun control bills. The bills included the following provisions:
- Criminal background checks are now required for all gun sales, excluding sales between family members and under certain other circumstances. Private party transfers between individuals who do not have a pre-existing relationship now require a background check conducted at a gun store.
- Handgun purchases are now capped at 1 every 30 days. However, people with licenses to carry concealed pistols are excluded from this limit.
- Virginia now has a red flag law. Judges can temporarily order the seizure of firearms from persons who are deemed a threat to themselves or others.
- Local governments have expanded power to ban firearms in certain sensitive areas, such as government buildings and public events.
- The penalty for allowing a child under 14 years of age to possess a firearms by leaving it unsecured in a reckless fashion was increased from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- People subject to "permanent protective orders" (domestic violence restraining orders with a maximum duration of 2 years) are required to surrender their firearms to local law enforcement, sell them to a licensed dealer, or give them to a person who is not prohibited from possessing firearms within 24 hours of being served notice of the protective order.
- Gun owners must report lost or stolen firearms to police within 48 hours.
Concealed carry reciprocity
VA code 18.2-308.014 (reciprocity) states:
A valid concealed handgun or concealed weapon permit or license issued by another state shall authorize the holder of such permit or license who is at least 21 years of age to carry a concealed handgun in the Commonwealth, provided
(i) the issuing authority provides the means for instantaneous verification of the validity of all such permits or licenses issued within that state, accessible 24 hours a day if available;
(ii) the permit or license holder carries a photo identification issued by a government agency of any state or by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Department of State and displays the permit or license and such identification upon demand by a law-enforcement officer; and
(iii) the permit or license holder has not previously had a Virginia concealed handgun permit revoked.
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- "Virginia Gun Laws Summary". National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. March 2, 2016.
- Jouvenal, Justin; Lamothe, Dan. "Senior Navy official charged with pointing gun at men during argument". The Washington Post. July 19, 2016.
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- "Virginia Supreme Court Rules Against Campus Carry". Concealedcampus.org. January 13, 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
- Meola, Olympia (February 29, 2012). "McDonnell signs repeal of one-gun-a-month law". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- "Resident Concealed Handgun Permits - Virginia State Police".
- "§ 18.2-308.09. Disqualifications for a concealed handgun permit".
- "Code of Virginia § 18.2–308.012". Law.lis.virginia.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- "Code of Virginia § 18.2–308". Law.lis.virginia.gov. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- "Senior Navy official charged with pointing gun at men during argument". Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- Casey, Dan. "CASEY: Virginia's first "sanctuary" — for people who love gun rights". Roanoke Times. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
- "Virginia SB69 | 2020 | Regular Session". LegiScan. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
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- "Virginia HB1083 | 2020 | Regular Session". LegiScan. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
- "Virginia HB1004 | 2020 | Regular Session". LegiScan. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
- "Virginia HB9 | 2020 | Regular Session". LegiScan. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
- Friedenberger, Amy (March 7, 2020). "History-Making Batch of Gun Control Bills Moves from Legislature to Northam". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
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