Ammunition Regulation in Virginia

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

In 2009, Virginia enacted a law that prohibits the knowing and intentional possession or transportation of ammunition by any person: 1) convicted of a felony; 2) adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense of murder, kidnapping, robbery by the threat or presentation of firearms, or rape; or 3) who is under the age of 29 and was found guilty as a juvenile (14 years of age or older) of a delinquent act which would be a felony if committed by an adult.1

Virginia law does not:

  • Prohibit other individuals ineligible to possess firearms under state law from possessing ammunition;
  • Prohibit the sale or possession of unreasonably dangerous ammunition;2
  • Impose a minimum age for the purchase or possession of ammunition (although federal law applies);
  • Require a license for the purchase or possession of ammunition; or
  • Require a license to sell ammunition.
Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2(A). ⤴︎
  2. Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.3, it is a separate and distinct felony to knowingly use or attempt to use “restricted firearm ammunition” while committing or attempting to commit a crime. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.3 provides that: “Restricted firearm ammunition” applies to bullets, projectiles or other types of ammunition that are: (i) coated with or contain, in whole or in part, polytetrafluorethylene or a similar product, (ii) commonly known as “KTW” bullets or “French Arcanes;” or (iii) any cartridges containing bullets coated with a plastic substance with other than lead or lead alloy cores, jacketed bullets with other than lead or lead alloy cores, or cartridges of which the bullet itself is wholly comprised of a metal or metal alloy other than lead. This definition shall not be construed to include shotgun shells or solid plastic bullets. ⤴︎

Assault Weapons in Virginia

See our Assault Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Virginia prohibits any person:

  • Who is not a citizen of the U.S., or who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, from knowingly and intentionally possessing or transporting any assault firearm;1 or
  • Who is a firearms dealer from transferring any assault firearm to such a person;2 and
  • From importing, selling, possessing or transferring “the Striker 12, commonly called a ‘streetsweeper,’ or any semi-automatic folding-stock shotgun of like kind with a spring tension drum magazine capable of holding twelve shotgun shells.”3

Virginia law defines “assault firearm” as:

[A]ny semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol which expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.4

With certain exceptions, Virginia law prohibits any person under 18 years of age from knowingly and intentionally possessing or transporting an assault firearm.5 For purposes of this provision, an “assault firearm” means either:

  • A semi-automatic centerfire rifle or pistol equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition, is designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or is equipped with a folding stock; or
  • A shotgun with a magazine which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered.6

Virginia law also prohibits the carrying of certain loaded high-powered firearms in public places in certain cities. See the Other Location Restrictions section above for further information.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:01. ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(1). ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.8. ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(G). ⤴︎
  5. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2:308.7. ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎

Background Checks in Virginia

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not unlicensed 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 that demonstrates that the prospective purchaser resides in Virginia;
  • 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

In 2016, Virginia repealed a requirement that a prospective purchaser present documentation of Virginia residency besides a photo ID.3

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.”4 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 (although federal law may continue to prohibit the transfer for 3 business days).5 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.6

A Virginia law passed in 2015 provides that a firearm dealer may, prior to selling, renting, trading, or transferring any firearm owned by the dealer but not in his inventory, require the transferee to consent to have the dealer obtain criminal history record information from DSP to determine if the transferee is prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm by state or federal law.7 

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 Universal Background Checks policy summary for more information.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2. ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(1). ⤴︎
  3. 2016 VA H.B. 206. ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(2). ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(C). ⤴︎
  7. 2014 Va. H.B. 1702, enacting Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(Q). ⤴︎

Child Access Prevention in Virginia

Virginia law prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14.1 It is also unlawful for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm except when the child is under the supervision of an adult.2 For purposes of this rule, “adult” means a parent, guardian, or similar person or a person 21 years or over who has the permission of the parent, guardian, or similar person to supervise the child in the use of a firearm.3

State administrative regulations govern storage of firearms in certain locations.

See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-56.2. ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-56.2(B). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in Virginia

See our Carrying Concealed Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Virginia allows a person to carry a concealed handgun if he or she has a permit.1 The prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun without a permit does not apply to:

  • Any person while in his or her own place of abode or the curtilage thereof;
  • Any person while in his or her own place of business;
  • Any regularly enrolled member of a target shooting organization who is at, or going to or from, an established shooting range, or any regularly enrolled member of a weapons collecting organization who is at, or going to or from, a bona fide weapons exhibition, provided that the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported;
  • Any person carrying such weapons between his or her place of abode and a place of purchase or repair, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported;
  • Any person actually engaged in lawful hunting under inclement weather conditions necessitating temporary protection of his or her firearm from those conditions;
  • Carriers of the United States mail in the discharge of their official duties, or while in transit to or from such duties;
  • Any attorney or assistant attorney for the Commonwealth in the discharge of his or her official duties, or while in transit to or from such duties. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(B), (C).))

Virginia is a “shall issue” state, meaning that the circuit court of the county or city in which the applicant resides must issue a concealed weapons permit if the applicant meets certain basic qualifications. More specifically, Virginia law provides, in part, that “[a]ny 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 he resides…for a five-year permit to carry a concealed handgun.”2 Virginia law requires the court to consult with either the sheriff or police department of the county or city where the applicant resides and receive a report from the Central Criminal Records Exchange.

Under a law that Virginia enacted in 2010, the court may authorize the clerk to issue a permit without judicial review, to applicants “for whom the criminal history records check does not indicate a disqualification and, after consulting with either the sheriff or police department of the county or city, about which there are no outstanding questions or issues concerning the application.” The 2010 law also states that only a circuit court judge may deny issuance of a permit.3

Virginia law disqualifies any person from obtaining a permit who:

  • Is prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons under federal law;
  • Has been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity unless he or she was discharged from custody more than five years ago;
  • Has been adjudicated legally incompetent or incapacitated unless his or her competency or capacity was restored more than five years ago;
  • Has been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment, or the subject of a temporary detention order who agrees to voluntary admission to a mental health facility, unless, in the case of involuntary admission, he or she was released more than five years ago;
  • Has been convicted of a felony or has a felony charge pending;
  • Is under age 29 and was found guilty as a juvenile at age 14 or older of an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult under federal law or the laws of any state. A person who would be disqualified based on adjudications as a juvenile will not be disqualified if he or she has completed a term of service of no less than two years in the Armed Forces of the United States and, if such person has been discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States, received an honorable discharge;
  • Has been convicted of two or more misdemeanors within the last five years (with certain exceptions);
  • Has been convicted of any assault, assault and battery, sexual battery, discharging a firearm in a public place, or brandishing a firearm within the last three years, or has such a charge pending;
  • Has been convicted of stalking, or has such a charge pending;
  • Is subject to a restraining order or protective order against family abuse or to protect the health and safety of any person;
  • Has received mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment in a residential setting within the last five years;
  • Is an alien other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent resident in the U.S.;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Was discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Is addicted to, or is an unlawful user or distributor of marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, or any controlled substance (or who has been convicted of possession of such a substance within the last three years, including where judgment of guilt is deferred pending a probationary period);
  • Has been convicted in or out of state of drunk driving or of public drunkenness within the last three years, or who is a “habitual drunkard”; or
  • Has been found “likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others” based on a sworn statement by local law enforcement (based on their personal knowledge, or that of another competent person).4

In addition, Virginia law states that a concealed handgun permit holder convicted of being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while carrying a concealed handgun in a public place shall have his or her permit revoked and shall be ineligible to apply for a new permit for five years.5

Firearm Safety Training

Virginia concealed weapon permit applicants must provide proof that the applicant has demonstrated competence with a handgun by one of the following:

  • An approved hunting or firearms course;
  • Evidence of equivalent experience with a firearm; or
  • Proof that the applicant previously held a license to carry a firearm in Virginia, unless such license has been revoked for cause.6

In 2009, Virginia enacted a law allowing concealed weapon permit applicants to fulfill this requirement with an electronic, video, or online course conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor.7

Duration & Renewal

Virginia permits to carry concealed handguns are valid for five years.8 Permit holders “shall be issued” a renewal permit by submitting a new application, unless the permit holder has become disqualified for a permit under the categories listed above.9 Renewal applicants are not required to appear in person and the application for the new permit may be submitted via mail.10

Disclosure or Use of Information

A law enacted in Virginia in 2009 requires the State Police to withhold information about permits and permit holders from public disclosure, however, in 2014, the prohibition against disclosure of application information was relaxed to allow the release of a reference to the issuance of a concealed handgun permit in any order book before July 1, 2008.11 The law allows disclosure:

  • To law enforcement agencies and officers for law enforcement purposes;
  • Of records by the State Police concerning permits issued to nonresidents; and
  • Of statistical summaries, abstracts, or other records containing information in an aggregate form that does not identify any individual permittees.12

Virginia law also states that concealed weapons permit applications may be destroyed at the discretion of the clerk of each circuit court after 10 years.13 Fingerprints taken as part of a concealed handgun permit application may not be copied, held or used for any other purposes.14 Upon completion of the criminal history records check, the State Police must return the fingerprint cards to the submitting local agency or, in the case of scanned fingerprints, destroy the electronic record. All fingerprint cards not claimed by the applicant within 21 days of notification by the local agency must be destroyed.15

Reciprocity

In 2016, Virginia enacted a universal reciprocity law that grants recognition to concealed handgun permits issued by any other state, provided: (1) the issuing state or local authority provides the means for instantaneous verification of the validity of all such permits, (2) the person displays the permit and photo ID upon demand of a law enforcement officer, and (3) the person has not had a Virginia permit revoked.16

 

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(A). ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D). ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D). ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(E). ⤴︎
  5. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(J1). Additional application and background check requirements, as well as permit suspension and disqualification information, are detailed under Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D)-(P1). ⤴︎
  6. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(G). ⤴︎
  7. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(G)(7). ⤴︎
  8. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D). ⤴︎
  9. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(I). ⤴︎
  10. Id. ⤴︎
  11. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.02(D). ⤴︎
  12. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(K). ⤴︎
  13. Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-213(B)(2). ⤴︎
  14. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D). ⤴︎
  15. Id. ⤴︎
  16. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.014 as amended by 2016 VA H 1163/S 610. ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in Virginia

See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

Virginia does not require firearms dealers to obtain a state license. For the laws requiring federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks on firearm purchasers, see the Virginia Background Checks section. Also see the Virginia Assault Weapons section for assault weapon sales-related provisions.

In 2010, Virginia repealed a law that had allowed counties to require sellers of handguns to furnish the clerk of the circuit court “with the name and address of the purchaser, the date of the purchase, and the number, make and caliber of the weapon sold” within 10 days of any handgun sale.1 The repealed law had also allowed a county to impose a license tax up to $25 on persons engaged in the business of selling handguns to the public.2

Virginia law prohibited a federally licensed firearms dealer from employing any person to act as a seller of firearms if the employee is an illegal alien, or is otherwise prohibited from possessing, purchasing or transporting a firearm under state law.3 Prior to permitting an applicant to begin employment, the dealer must obtain a written statement or affirmation from the applicant that he or she is not disqualified from possessing a firearm and must submit the applicant’s fingerprints and personal descriptive information to the Central Criminal Records Exchange to be forwarded to the FBI for a criminal history check.4 A dealer can obtain an exemption from this requirement if it submits a sworn notarized affidavit on a form prepared by the Department of State Police (“DSP”) stating that the seller was subjected to a record check prior to the ATF’s issuance of the federal license.5 Upon receipt of the request for a criminal history record information check, DSP must establish a unique number for that firearm seller.6 Beginning September 1, 2001, the firearm seller’s signature, firearm seller’s number and the dealer’s identification number shall be on all firearm transaction forms. DSP must void the seller’s number when a disqualifying record is discovered, and may suspend a seller’s number upon the seller’s arrest for a potentially disqualifying crime.7 This section does not restrict the transfer of a firearm at any place other than a dealership, or at any event required to be registered as a gun show.8

Virginia only allows firearms dealers to check whether a pre-owned firearm being transferred to a dealer from a non-dealer has been reported lost or stolen if the non-dealer consents to the check in writing.9

See the Virginia Private Sales section for laws that apply to gun sales generally.

Notes
  1. 2010 Va. ALS 495 (amending Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1207). ⤴︎
  2. Id. (repealing former Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1206). ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(A). ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(B). ⤴︎
  5. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(D1). ⤴︎
  6. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(G). ⤴︎
  7. Id. ⤴︎
  8. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(H). ⤴︎
  9. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:4. ⤴︎

Design Safety Standards for Handguns in Virginia

Virginia prohibits the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer or possession of any firearm containing less than 3.7 ounces of electromagnetically detectable metal in the barrel, slide, cylinder, frame or receiver and which, when subjected to inspection by X-ray machines commonly used at airports, does not generate an image that accurately depicts its shape.1

Virginia does not otherwise regulate firearms commonly known as “junk guns” or “Saturday night specials.”

See our Design Safety Standards for Handguns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.5. ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Virginia

Virginia has no law requiring the removal of firearms from, or the surrender of firearms by, persons who have become prohibited from possessing them, although a 2016 makes an allowance for the surrender of firearms by a person who has become subject to a final protective order. See Domestic Violence and Firearms in Virginia for further information.

However, a concealed weapon permittee convicted of an offense that would disqualify that person from obtaining a permit is required to forfeit his permit (but not his firearm) and surrender it to the court that issued it.1 Upon receipt by the Central Criminal Records Exchange of a record of the arrest, conviction or occurrence of any other event that would disqualify a person from obtaining a concealed handgun permit, the Central Criminal Records Exchange must notify the court that issued the permit of the disqualifying arrest, conviction or other event. Upon receipt of such notice of a conviction, the court must revoke the permit and promptly notify the State Police and the person whose permit was revoked of the revocation.2 Notably, many of the events that disqualify an individual from obtaining a concealed weapons permit also disqualify the individual from possessing firearms altogether.

In addition, a concealed weapon permittee who is the subject of a domestic violence protective order must surrender his or her permit to the court entering the order, for the duration of the order.3

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(J). ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:4. ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Virginia

In 2016, Virginia enacted a law that prohibits individuals subject to final domestic violence restraining or protective orders from possessing firearms.1 The law states that for a period of 24 hours after being served with such a protective order, the person may continue to possess and transport any firearm possessed by the person at the time of service for the purposes of selling or transferring it to any person not prohibited from possessing the firearm.

Virginia law, however, does not:

  • Prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing firearms or ammunition (unlike federal law);
  • Require the surrender of firearms or ammunition by domestic abusers who have become prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law;
  • Prohibit individuals subject to ex parte restraining orders from possessing firearms; or
  • Explicitly authorize or require the removal of firearms or ammunition at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

Virginia prohibits anyone subject to a domestic violence protective order, including an ex parte order, from purchasing or transporting a firearm while the order is in effect.2 Such orders are available to family and household members of the abuser.3 They are also available to victims of stalking, but only if a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the stalker.4

In 2011, Virginia amended the part of this law that applies to persons subject to preliminary protective orders for the protection of a child, so that the defendant is only prohibited from purchasing or transporting a firearm if a court has made a finding of abuse or neglect.5

Any concealed weapon permittee who is the subject of a domestic violence protective order, including an ex parte order, is prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm and must surrender his or her permit to the court entering the order, for the duration of the order.6

See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.09 as amended by 2016 H 1391. ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:4. ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:4 (citing Va. Code Ann. §§ 16.1-253(F) and 16.1-278.2, which authorize orders to protect a child in a case of abuse or neglect, and Va. Code Ann. §§ 16.1-253.1 and 16.1-253.4, which authorize orders to protect family and household members). ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:4 (citing Va. Code Ann. §§ 19.2-152.8, 19.2-152.9, 19.2-152.10, which authorize a protective order against stalking when a warrant has been issued for the stalker’s arrest). ⤴︎
  5. See 2011 Va. ALS 402. ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎