Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2015
See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
In Virginia, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the Department of State Police (“DSP”) which enforces the federal purchaser prohibitions referenced above.1
Before transferring a firearm from his or her inventory, a licensed dealer must:
- Require a prospective purchaser to present one piece of government issued photo-identification, and a separate documentation of residence;
- Obtain the purchaser’s written consent to a background check and the other information on a consent form;
- Request criminal history record information regarding the purchaser by a telephone call to or other communication authorized by DSP; and
- Provide DSP with the name, birth date, gender, race, citizenship, and social security and/or any other identification number of the purchaser, and the number of firearms by category intended to be transferred.2
The DSP must generally process each dealer’s background check request “during the dealer’s call [to the DSP], or by return call without delay.”3 Virginia law provides that most background checks must be processed by the end of the following business day, or the dealer is free to complete the transfer.4 A Virginia administrative regulation requires a dealer who processes a transfer because he or she has not received a response from the DSP by the end of the dealer’s next business day, to notify DSP of the transfer by telephone.5
See the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Virginia for more information.
Virginia does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary for more information.
- Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, 2005 (November 2006) and Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2. [↩]
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(1). [↩]
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(2). [↩]
- Id. [↩]
- 19 Va. Admin. Code § 30-100-10(A). Non-residents seeking to purchase a handgun are treated differently, and the DSP is allowed up to 10 days to process background checks in those situations. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(C). See 6 Va. Admin. Code §§ 20-130-10—20-130-100, and 19 Va. Admin. Code §§ 30-100-10—30-100-110 for additional information regarding the procedures used to perform background checks in Virginia. [↩]