Virginia Gun Law Summary

Rifles and Shotguns
  • Permit to purchase rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Registration of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No.
Handguns
  • Permit to purchase handgun? No.
  • Registration of handguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of handguns? No.
  • Permit to carry handguns? Yes. A permit is required if concealed.
Caution: This summary is meant for general purposes only. Firearm laws frequently change and the following answers may not reflect changes in the laws.

Purchase and Possession

A criminal history record information check is required prior to purchasing any firearm, except for an antique or its replica. 

A fee of $2.00 will be collected for such a check. For non-residents it is $5.00. 

If any buyer or transferee is denied the right to purchase a firearm, he may exercise his right of access to and review of the criminal history record information, provided such action is initiated within thirty days of the denial. 

A licensed firearm dealer shall not deliver a rifle or shotgun to a non-resident until an approval report is received from the state police or 10 days have gone by, whichever comes first. 

Permit holders may purchase more than 1 handgun a month. Non-licensed persons may only buy 1 handgun a month. 

No state permit is required to otherwise purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun. 

Virginia residents may purchase firearms from any licensed Federal Firearms Licensee, even if they are out of state. 

It is a crime for any person to sell, give or otherwise furnish a handgun to a minor if he has reason to believe that the buyer or recipient is under 18 years of age, unless such transfer is made between family members or for the purpose of engaging in a sporting event or activity. 

A person under 18 shall not possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm.1 

This prohibition does not apply to a minor in his own home or on his property or on the property of another with prior permission, while accompanied by an adult while hunting, at a range or firearm educational class, and while transporting an unloaded firearm to and from such activities. 

It is unlawful for a person convicted of a felony, or any person under 29 with a juvenile adjudication, as a 14-year-old or older, which would be a felony if committed by an adult, or a person acquitted by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution, to possess or transport a firearm. 

It is unlawful for any person who is subject to a protective order issued pursuant to family abuse or stalking to purchase or transport any firearm while the order is in effect. 

It is unlawful for anyone adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated or involuntarily committed to purchase, possess or transport a firearm. It is unlawful to transfer a firearm to such persons. 

It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age of twelve to use a firearm except when the child is under the supervision of an adult. 

It is unlawful to possess, sell, transfer, or import any semi-automatic folding stock shotgun with a spring tension drum magazine capable of holding 12 rounds. 

A non-citizen or alien not admitted for permanent residence shall not possess or transport an assault firearm, and a gun dealer shall not transfer it to such person. Most shotguns are not included in the term assault firearm. 

When a member of the armed services wishes to purchase a firearm, the permanent duty post of a person in the armed services is their assigned residence. 

When a purchaser presents a copy of their permanent orders assigning residence in Virginia, along with a photoidentification issued by the Department of Defense, no other documentation or residency is required by the seller.

Carrying

The carrying of any concealed firearm by a person about his person, hidden from common observation, is prohibited. Exceptions to this prohibition include:
  1. Carrying in one’s place of abode or the curtilage thereof.

  2. Any regularly enrolled member of a target shooting organization who is at, or going to or from, an established shooting range, provided that the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported. 

  3. Any regularly enrolled member of a weapons collection organization who is at, or going to or from, a bonafide weapons exhibition, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported. 

  4. Any person carrying such weapons between his place of abode and a place of purchase or repair, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported. 

  5. Any person actually engaged in lawful hunting under inclement weather conditions necessitating temporary protection of his firearm.
A person 21 years of age or older may apply in writing to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the county or city in which the applicant resides for a permit to carry a concealed handgun. 

The application shall be made under oath, before a notary or other person qualified to take oaths, and shall be made on a form prescribed by the Supreme Court, requiring only that information necessary to determine eligibility for the permit. 

A clerk of court is allowed to withhold from the public the social security number in a concealed handgun permit application. 

The fee shall not exceed $50. The court shall issue the permit within 45 days of receipt of the completed application unless it appears that the applicant is disqualified. 

The copy of a concealed handgun permit application becomes a de facto permit if the court does not grant or deny the permit within a 45 day period of the receipt of the application. 

Once the court grants or denies the application, the person either surrenders the de facto permit to the court or the person will be issued a concealed handgun permit. 

A disqualified person includes:
  • One who is ineligible to purchase, transport, or possess a firearm.

  • A person who it is alleged, in a sworn written statement submitted to the court, that in the opinion of such sheriff, chief of police or attorney for the Commonwealth is likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others based upon personal knowledge or upon the sworn written statement of a competent person having personal knowledge

  • A habitual drunkard or an addict or unlawful user of a controlled substance.

  • Dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces.

  • An illegal alien.

  • A person who in the preceding three years has been convicted of drunkenness or a violent misdemeanor.

  • A person who within the preceding five years was involuntarily committed.

The courtmay require proof that the applicant has demonstrated competence with a handgun. 

Proof includes completion of a firearm training course offered by the NRA, the state, or a school; participation in organized shooting competition or military service; or any governmental police agency firearms course; previously held a firearm carrying license. 

The permit shall contain the name, address, date of birth, gender, height, weight, color of hair, eyes, and signature of the permittee and judge issuing the permit, and the date it was issued. 

Permits shall be valid for 5 years. On and after July 1, 2007, if a permittee moves from the address listed on the permit, he shall within 30 days notify the issuing court of the change of address and the court located where the permittee has moved to, shall issue a new permit. 

The person issued the permit shall have such permit on his person at all times when he is carrying a concealed handgun and must display the permit and proper photo identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer. 

The specific reasons for a denial shall be stated in the order of the court. 

Upon request of the applicant made within 21 days of the denial, the court shall place the matter on the docket for a full hearing, at which the applicant may be represented by a lawyer. The final order of the court shall include findings of fact and conclusions of law. 

Any person denied a permit may present a petition for review to the Court of Appeals. 

The petition for review shall be filed within sixty days of the expiration of the time for requesting a hearing, or if a hearing is requested, within sixty days of the entry of the final order of the circuit court following the hearing. 

If the decision to deny the permit is reversed upon appeal, taxable costs incurred by the person shall be paid by the Commonwealth. 

It is unlawful to carry any firearm at any time in any elementary, junior high, or high school, or on such school property or discharge a firearm on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school property, except as part of the curriculum or other school-sponsored program of any organization permitted by the school. 

Firearms may be possessed in a vehicle if unloaded and locked in a closed container or vehicle trunk. 

Any person with a concealed handgun permit may carry a concealed handgun onto school property while in a vehicle to drop off or pick up a child, only if the permit holder remains in the vehicle with the handgun completely concealed. 

It is unlawful to carry a concealed handgun onto the premises of any restaurant or club for which a license to sell or serve alcoholic beverages on premises has been granted by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. 

It is unlawful to carry any firearm without good and sufficient reason to a place of worship while a religious meeting is being held. 

A valid concealed handgun permit or license issued by another state shall be valid in the Commonwealth if the person is at least 21 years of age, the issuing state can provide verification and that states law are adequate to prevent issuance of a permit by persons who would be prohibited in Virginia. 

The Superintendent of State Police, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, may also enter into agreements for reciprocal recognition with any state qualifying for recognition under Virginia law. 

A non-resident 21 years of age or older may obtain a non-resident license by applying to the Virginia State Police, successfully meeting the requirements for resident applications and by submitting fingerprints. 

Antiques and Replicas

Antique firearm means any firearm manufactured in or before 1898 and any replica of such a firearm if such a replica is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional center-fire ammunition or uses rimfire or conventional center-fire ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the U.S. and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. 

This exception applies only to sales by federally licensed gun dealers. The restrictions on concealed carrying and possession by prohibited persons otherwise apply.

Machine Guns

A machine gun is defined as a weapon that shoots or is designed to shoot, automatically without manual reloading more than one shot by a single function of the trigger. 

Possession of a machine gun for an aggressive or offensive purpose is prohibited. 

All machine guns in the state must be registered within 24 hours of acquisition with the Department of State Police. 

A presumption of possession for an offensive or aggressive purpose is raised by:
  • A failure to register.

  • Possession by a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence.

  • Possession elsewhere than on one’s premises owned or rented for permanent residence or business occupancy.

  • When empty or loaded shells for the machine gun are found in the immediate vicinity.

This law does not prohibit or interfere with any machine gun registered with the State Police, that is possessed for scientific purposes, or not usable as a weapon and possessed as a curiosity, ornament or keepsake or possessed for a purpose manifestly not aggressive or offensive.

"Sawed Off" Shotguns and Rifles

A "sawed-off" shotgun is defined as any weapon loaded or unloaded, originally designed as a shoulder weapon, utilizing a self-contained cartridge from which a number of ball shot pellets or projectiles may be fired simultaneously from a smooth or rifled bore by a single function of the firing device and which has a barrel length of less than 18 inches for smooth bore weapons and 16 inches for rifled weapons. Weapons of less than .225 caliber shall not be included. 

A "sawed-off" rifle is defined as a rifle of any caliber, loaded or unloaded, which expels a projectile by action of an explosion and is designed as a shoulder weapon with a barrel or barrels length of less than 16 inches or which has been modified to an overall length of less than 26 inches. 

Possession of a "sawed-off" shotgun or "sawed-off" rifle is unlawful except for the following purposes:
  1. Possession for scientific purposes, or possession of a "sawed-off" shotgun or "sawed off" rifle not usable as a firing weapon and possessed as a curiosity ornament or keepsake, or the possession of a "sawed-off" shotgun or "sawed-off" rifle in compliance with federal law. 

  2. The manufacture for, and sale of, to the military or law enforcement or to penal institutions, provided that every manufacturer or dealer shall keep a register of all "sawed-off" shotguns and "sawed-off" rifles manufactured or handled by him or her. The register shall keep a full description of the person to whom delivered or from whom it was received. 

  3. No registered "sawed-off" shotgun or "sawed-off" rifle may be transferred without the registrant notifying the Superintendent of State Police, in writing, of the name and address of the recipient.

Miscellaneous

  • It is unlawful to discharge a firearm in or across any road, or right-of-way, except at an approved firing range. 

  • It is unlawful to discharge any firearm in any public street or in any place of public business or public gathering, except to protect life or property, or unless otherwise authorized by law. 

  • It is a crime to maliciously discharge a firearm within an occupied building in such a manner to endanger the lives of the occupants or to maliciously shoot at or maliciously throw any missile at or against any dwelling or other occupied building whereby the lives of the occupants are placed in peril. 

  • If the act is unlawful, but not malicious, the person shall be guilty of a lesser category of crime. If a person willfully discharges a firearm within, or at, a school building, occupied or not, he or she shall be guilty of a felony. 

  • It is unlawful to set a spring gun or a set gun or other firearm that is discharged by a trip wire or similar device. 

  • It is unlawful to sell, furnish or give a toy gun (other than a cap pistol) if it can discharge a blank or ball charge by means of powder or other explosive. 

  • It is unlawful to remove, deface or alter any serial number, maker’s name or other identifying mark on any firearm. 

  • A mandatory penalty of 3 years for a first offense, and 5 years for a subsequent offense, is provided as a separate and consecutive felony offense for using or displaying a firearm during the commission of certain violent felonies and drug offenses. 

  • A person ineligible to possess a firearm who solicits, employs, or assists another person to purchase a firearm, or a person who purchases more than one firearm with the intent to transfer to an ineligible person, shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of 5 years. 

  • It is unlawful to hunt with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant or narcotic drug. 

  • A person with a concealed carry handgun permit may hunt lawfully while carrying their concealed handgun as long as they have their permit with them.

No locality shall have the authority to bring suit against a firearms or ammunition marketer, manufacturer, distributor, dealer, seller, or trade association for damages, abatement, injunctive relief or any other remedy resulting from or relating to the lawful design, marketing, manufacture, distribution, sale, or transfer of firearms or ammunition to the public. 

The right to bring any such action is hereby reserved exclusively to the Commonwealth. 

Any action brought by the Commonwealth pursuant to this section shall be brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth. This shall also apply equally to any state governmental entity, including a department, agency, or authority. 

1. "Assault firearm" means any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol which is equipped with a magazine which will hold more than twenty rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock. 

Sources: VA. CODE ANN. §§15.2-915; 15.2-915.1; §18.2-279 through 281; §18.2-283 through 286; §18.2- 288 through 293.1; §18.2-295; §18.2-299 through 303.1; §18.2-308; §18.2-308.1:1 through 308.1:5; §18.2- 308.2:01; §18.2-308.2:1 and 308.2:2; §18.2-309 and 10; §18.2-311.1



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