Gun laws in Virginia
|Subject/Law||Long Guns||Handguns||Relevant Statutes||Notes|
|Permit to purchase required?||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 "assault weapons".|
|Carry permits required?||No||Yes||§ 18.2-308||Virginia is a "shall issue" state for concealed carry. Permits are issued to non-residents and training is permitted online or in person.|
|Open carry permitted?||Yes||Yes||§ 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, you 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.
For open carry in a vehicle, the firearm must be "properly secured in a container or compartment within the vehicle" (ie glove box, center console, trunk, etc). The container/compartment does not have to be locked, the firearm may be within the reach of the driver or a passenger, and the firearm may be loaded. This does not preempt an employer from prohibiting firearms "at a place of employment if there is a company policy or signage prohibiting firearms on the premises." Furthermore, a "county or city may by ordinance make it unlawful for any person to transport, possess or carry a loaded shotgun or loaded rifle in any vehicle on any public street, road, or highway within such locality." However, this does not "apply to duly authorized law-enforcement officers or military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, nor to any person who reasonably believes that a loaded rifle or shotgun is necessary for his personal safety in the course of his employment or business."
In addition, a firearm may be considered "open carry" in a vehicle if the firearm is openly visible, though this is not as well established as the "secured in a container/compartment" rule.
|State preemption of local restrictions?||Yes||Yes||§ 15.2-915||Virginia has state preemption for most but not all firearm laws.|
|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/adjustable 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?||Yes||Yes||§ 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?||No||No|
|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,
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, Capitol and General Assembly buildings (open carrying only, members of the General Assembly and those with a valid CHP are permitted in the Capitol General Assembly buildings), 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, 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 criminal convictions. 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. 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.
- "Crimes Involving Health and Safety". Legislative Information System. Virginia General Assembly.
- "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.
- "Gun Laws: Virginia". National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
- "Virginia State Law Summary". Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
- "Attorney General Opinion" (PDF).
- "Virginia State Police Letter Confirming Legality of Open Carry" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- "Virginia State Police – Firearms Reciprocity/Recognition". Vsp.state.va.us. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- "Article I, Section 13. Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power". Legis.state.va.us. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- "Second Amendment Foundation – Firearm Regulation, by John Brabner-Smith". Saf.org. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- "University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Note, 98 (1950): 905. F.J.K". Saf.org. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- "Code of Virginia § 18.2–308.5". Leg1.state.va.us. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- "Attorney General Opinion" (PDF).
- "Virginia Supreme Court Rules Against Campus Carry". Concealedcampus.org. 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
- Meola, Olympia (2012-02-29). "McDonnell signs repeal of one-gun-a-month law". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- "Code of Virginia".
- "LIS > Code of Virginia > 18.2-308". Leg1.state.va.us. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2011-12-23.