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Virginia Gun Control Laws

The issues surrounding guns and gun control have become increasingly controversial due to the growing number of high-profile mass shootings in the United States. Gun control laws originate from both federal and state legislation, although the federal government has relatively limited control over the ownership and use of firearms. When it comes to state gun control laws, ownership restrictions tend to vary widely from state to state.

As in other states, Virginia gun control laws limit the ownership and carrying of certain weapons. Virginia's gun control laws also restrict who is permitted to own guns. For example, individuals convicted of a felony or who are subject to a protective order (restraining order), may not own or purchase guns.

The main provisions of Virginia's gun control laws are listed in the following table, with links to related articles.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

Code of Virginia, Title 18.2, Chapter 7, Section 279 through 311.2

Illegal Arms

The following items are illegal in Virginia:
  • Plastic firearms
  • Tigger activators (a device that allows a semi-automatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger)
  • Striker 12, commonly called a "streetsweeper," or any similar semi-automatic folding stock shotgun with a spring tension drum magazine capable of holding twelve shotgun shells

Waiting Period

There is no waiting period for purchasing a firearm.

Who May Not Own

The following people cannot own a firearm in Virginia:
  • A person under 18 years of age
  • A person acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity and committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
  • A person who has been adjudicated legally incompetent or incapacitated
  • A person who was involuntarily admitted to a facility or ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment, was the subject of temporary detention and subsequently agreed to voluntary admission, or was found incompetent to stand trial and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future
  • A person who is subject to a protective order
  • A person who, within a 36-consecutive-month period, has been convicted of two misdemeanor offenses for possession of a controlled substance.
  • A person who is subject to an emergency substantial risk order or a substantial risk order
  • A person who has been convicted of a felony,
  • A person who was adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile 14 years of age or older for specific violent crimes
  • A person who is under the age of 29 and who was adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile 14 years of age or older for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult

License Required?

Except for machine guns, there are no requirements to register a firearm in Virginia.

Concealed Carry License Required?

Virginia requires a concealed handgun permit for anyone who wishes to carry a concealed firearm. The requirement does not apply to a person in their own home or their place of business and does not apply to certain professions.

Open Carried Allowed?

Open carry is permitted except under the following circumstances:
  • Open carry is not allowed in places where firearms are prohibited by Virginia law
  • Carrying a loaded semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that is equipped with a magazine that holds more than 20 rounds of ammunition, is designed to accommodate a silencer, or is equipped with a folding stock is prohibited in any public place in the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, or Virginia Beach or in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William
  • Carrying a shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered is prohibited in any public place in the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, or Virginia Beach or in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

To obtain a concealed handgun permit, a person must:
  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Demonstrate competence with a handgun by completing an approved course in hunter education, hunter safety, firearms safety or presenting evidence of equivalent experience with a firearm through participation in organized shooting competition, military service, or previously having held a license to carry a firearm in the Commonwealth
  • Not be ineligible to possess a firearm under Virginia law (for example, a person subject to a protective order)
  • Not have been convicted of two or more misdemeanors within the five-year period immediately preceding the application, if one of the misdemeanors was a Class 1 misdemeanor
  • Not be addicted to, or an unlawful user or distributor of, marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, or any controlled substance
  • Not have been convicted of driving while intoxicated or public drunkenness within the three-year period immediately preceding the application
  • Be a citizen or lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States
  • Not have been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions
  • Not be a fugitive from justice
  • Not be an individual who the court finds is likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others
  • Not have been convicted of, or have a charge pending for, any assault, assault and battery, sexual battery, discharging of a firearm, or brandishing of a firearm within the three-year period immediately preceding the application
  • Not have been convicted of, or have a charge pending for, stalking
  • Not have previous juvenile convictions or adjudications of delinquency based on an offense that would have been a felony if committed by an adult (this does not apply to people who have completed a term of service of no less than two years in the Armed Forces of the United States and who received an honorable discharge)
  • Not have received mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment in a residential setting within five years
  • Not have a conviction for certain drug offense within the three-year period immediately preceding the application

Machine Gun Laws

Every machine gun must be registered with the Department of State Police within twenty-four hours after its acquisition or, in the case of weapons that are modified to become machine guns, within twenty-four hours of the modification.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • For people who are prohibited from possessing a gun, the penalty is a class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by a jail term of up to one year and a $2,500 fine
  • It's a class 6 felony for a person with a felony conviction to possesses a gun. Multiple misdemeanor convictions can enhance the crime to a felony level. Class 6 felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Possessing an illegal firearm or trigger activator is either a class 5 or class 6 felony, depending on the type of firearm. Class 5 felonies are punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

  • It is a class 6 felony to knowingly possesses any firearm on the property of any child daycare center or school, including buildings and grounds, any property open to the public and then exclusively used for school-sponsored functions while such functions are taking place, or any school bus owned or operated by a school.
  • Possessing a gun on or near school grounds is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine. If someone displays a gun in a threatening manner, the five years is a mandatory minimum.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Speak to an Attorney About Your Gun Rights

For additional information relating to Virginia's gun control laws, feel free to take a look at the links to related resources listed below. You can also read more about gun control laws, in general, by reading FindLaw's article, Details on State Gun Control Laws.

If you have more specific questions, need more individualized assistance, or need legal representation for a gun-related crime, you may want to contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney.

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