Virginia Gun Laws: An Overview


The Second Amendment protects the rights of American citizens to own and bear arms. Gun violence in the United States has created a stir in society, resulting in a divide between those lobbying for changes in gun laws to protect the innocent from mass shootings and crimes involving guns. It’s a controversial issue as those who call for stricter gun laws are met with resistance from citizens calling for full gun rights without restrictions for those deemed eligible to possess firearms.

There are also people in the middle who want some restrictions in place but who also do not wish to lose their rights, but agree that some changes are necessary. Each state creates its own set of rules and regulations for gun ownership, but federal law is limited. If you’re a resident of the state of Virginia, or you plan to visit, here is an overview of Virginia gun laws as they stand in June of 2022.

Gun ownership in Virginia

Find Law confirms that Virginia’s gun control laws impose limits on owning and carrying some types of weapons. The laws impose restrictions on who may own guns and who may not by law. All residents and visitors are required to conform to behaviors that comply with local gun laws or face legal penalties for violation. Laws may change with little notice. It is the responsibility of all persons in Virginia to check with local laws and obey them as they pertain to gun ownership, possession, and use.

Persons who may not own a gun in Virginia

Gun ownership is a protected Second Amendment right in Virginia, however, gun control laws restrict the definition of who may own a gun in the state. It’s easier to start with a list of those who may not own a gun. You must be 18 years of age or older to own a firearm. It’s illegal for anyone under age 18 to own a gun.

Other persons ineligible for gun ownership are those who were involuntarily admitted to a facility for mandatory outpatient treatment, who voluntarily entered a facility, or a person who was found incompetent to stand trial and likely to remain so for mental health reasons. Persons acquitted of a crime because of insanity and who were committed to the commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services may not own a gun.

Those who are legally ruled incapacitated or incompetent, or who are subject to a protective order may not own a gun. Persons convicted of two misdemeanor offenses for controlled substances within a 36-month consecutive period, who are subject to an emergency substantial risk order, or who have been convicted of a felony may not own a gun.

Those adjudicated as juvenile delinquents 14 years and older for specific violent crimes, and those in the class under the age of 29, who would have faced felony charges as an adult may not own a firearm in Virginia. You must be 18 years or older with no record of felony convictions, drug-related convictions, mental health diagnoses, or record of violent crimes as a juvenile 14 years and older to be eligible to legally own a gun in Virginia. The laws attempt to prohibit gun ownership for those most likely to commit a violent crime with a firearm.

Exceptions for the age restrictions in Virginia

Giffords confirms that the age restriction does not apply to persons under the age of 18 who are in their own home on their property, or the home of a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian. Those under 18 may possess a firearm on the property of others if the landowner grants written permission and if the legal guardian grants permission. Those accompanied by an adult going to a lawful shooting range, firearms education classes may transport weapons that are unloaded. Those who engage in lawful hunting or who are going to and from hunting may possess unloaded weapons. The law does not apply to family members supplying guns to minors for sporting events or activities. Virginia has no minimum age for purchasing or possessing rifles.

Buying guns in Virginia

Wikipedia confirms that a state permit is not required to purchase long guns or handguns in Virginia. Buyers must produce proof of age and citizenship to purchase firearms. Proof of citizenship or permanent residence license is required to purchase assault weapons. Persons must be age 21 or older to purchase a handgun. Background checks are required for private gun sales in Virginia. As of July 1, 2020, sellers are required to obtain criminal history information from the Virginia State police to determine buyer eligibility to purchase a gun under the law. The law doesn’t apply to transferring firearms in situations where nothing of value is exchanged for the gun.

Virginia laws for concealed carry

Virginia is a shall-issue state for concealed carry. Permits are issued to Virginia residents and non-residents. Virginia removed the option to obtain training via online or video training courses on January 1, 2021. Gun owners are not required to have a concealed carry permit if the gun remains secured in a container inside the vehicle, such as a center console, trunk, glove box, or another container. There is no requirement for the container to be locked. The firearm may be loaded.

Employer, city, and county restrictions on firearms in the workplace

Employers may prohibit firearms in the workplace if a company policy exists or if there is signage banning guns on the premises. Any county or city can make it illegal to possess, carry, or transport a loaded rifle or shotgun in a vehicle on public roads, streets, or highways.

The exception is for authorized law enforcement officers or military personnel performing lawful duties or those who believe that having a loaded gun is required for personal safety when conducting business, or in the line of employment duties. Open carry is allowed without a permit for eligible citizens 18 years old and older. Some cities and counties may make exceptions to the rule for open carry pertaining to loaded semi-automatic center fire rifles or pistols.

Some cities with rigid regulations about open carry include Alexandria, Chesapeake, Falls Church, Fairfax, Newport News, Richmond, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. Restrictions are also in place in the following Counties for Loudoun, Henrico, Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William. These restrictions do not apply to individuals holding valid concealed carry permits. Open Carry is considered a firearm that is openly visible in the vehicle. Local governments can ban firearms in sensitive areas like public events and government buildings.

Machine guns and assault weapons

Fully automatic firearms are classified as machine guns. Registration is a requirement. You must register with the state police for all fully automatic firearms. Restrictions for assault weapons are in place. Assault weapons are semi-automatic or centerfire guns equipped with a folding stock or magazine that can hold over 20 rounds of ammunition or ones that can accommodate a suppressor or silencer.

Magazines over 20 rounds capacity are legal but classify the gun as an assault weapon. There are no magazine restrictions in Virginia except for the counties where the legal magazine capacity is mentioned above. It is illegal to have plastic firearms and other devices, including the striker 12 shotgun. It’s illegal unless you’re an active duty law enforcement officer. NFA paperwork is required to possess SBS.

Virginia observes the Red Flag Law

In Virginia, a judge can issue an Extreme Risk Protective Order. The order grants police authority to confiscate firearms temporarily from a person considered at high risk for causing harm to themselves or others.

Laws surrounding stolen or lost guns in Virginia

Recent laws in Virginia require gun owners to file an official report when a gun is lost or stolen. It’s part of a package of gun reform laws designed to promote the health and safety of the citizens of Virginia. Another law limits the number of handguns a person can buy at one time. Citizens were limited to buying one handgun a month. A governor of Virginia signed a bill that repealed the law shortly after it passed, but the law was reinstated and enforced for licensed firearms dealers.

Prohibited places to carry a gun in Virginia

Firearms are prohibited in certain places in the state of Virginia. Since these laws are subject to exceptions, it is essential for gun owners and those observing open carry and concealed carry rights to fully explore the restrictions and comply with the law, or face possible penalties which may include fines, and/or jail time.

Firearms are prohibited in courthouses, child day care centers, schools, air carrier terminals, and the Capitol and General Assembly buildings. Firearms are illegal in some churches except for legal carry for sufficient reasons for personal protection. Some institutions of higher learning have banned firearms on school property. Conflicts in the wording of University prohibition of firearm policies have led to discussions among lawmakers.

Some individuals may still carry or possess firearms on the campus of universities banning firearms, but restrictions are in places where persons congregate and are vulnerable including campus events and inside campus buildings. Open carry is restricted to open grounds and places where large groups do not gather.

Changing gun laws in Virginia

The year 2022 is a year of change in the United States. Controversies over state gun laws are creating philosophical divides between gun-rights supporters and those who support stricter gun laws. The state of Virginia is not exempt from the conversations taking place among lawmakers.

ABC News reports that several bills focusing on gun usage are on the table for Virginia’s legislators, and it’s coming down to Democratic attempts to tighten gun control laws and Republican lawmakers seeking to secure Second Amendment rights to own and bear arms. The proposed changes under review would expand the rights of responsible gun owners and allow citizens of Virginia to carry guns openly in more places.

The proposals would further eliminate some penalties and costs associated with gun use. A bill filed with the legislature would allow guns at preschools. there is a movement to remove licensed child day centers and preschools from the list of firearm prohibitions. It’s the response that has been generated by the recent Uvalde, Texas massacre of innocent children in their classrooms.

Workers eligible to carry would have access to firearms for the protection of their classrooms. Some lawmakers seek to repeal the ban on firearms inside places of worship. Carrying firearms in a church is currently a class 4 misdemeanor. Two lawmakers support the repeal of this restriction.

Another bill that aims to revoke the authority of localities to limit firearm rights has been introduced and could expand the legal carry of firearms to parks, community centers, and government buildings. A bill is also under review that would do away with the prohibition of firearms in the Capitol, General Assembling building, rest stops, ABC stores, the DMV, and Capitol Square.

Proposed changes to hunting-related laws

A bill to expand the types of firearms allowed for hunting big game could expand legal styles to include a .22 caliber centerfire weapon. House Bill 120 would provide disabled American veterans with a lifetime reduced cost or free hunting and fishing licenses if their disability is service-connected and at least 30 percent. House Bill 114 would grant some volunteer firefighters and EMS workers free fishing and hunting licenses.

Reduction of fines and penalties

House Bill 10 would remove all fees for applying for a handgun permit or receiving the permit. Bill 11 would reduce the penalty for carrying a handgun without a permit. it would lower the charges from their current status as a misdemeanor to a civil penalty. the fines would not exceed $100 and it would allow violators the opportunity to apply for a permit during legal proceedings and have the charges dropped if the permit is approved. House Bill 14 would do away with the one handgun a month restriction.

Final thoughts

Virginia’s gun laws have evolved. It’s a state, like many others, that is divided over the politics of maintaining Second Amendment rights to own and bear arms and the call for restrictions to curb gun violence in America. Virginia is a pro-gun state and the current laws restricting gun ownership are coming under fire. Instead of pushing for stricter gun control laws, lawmakers seek to loosen them.

It’s an ongoing situation that underscores the need for gun owners to follow up on recent gun laws and read up on the area that pertains to your situation, to understand the fine details, as some laws are complicated. More changes are coming, so keep on top of the new laws as they pass, to ensure you comply.

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