FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Virginia Gun Laws

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Introduction

Virginia is bordered to the north by Maryland and the District of Columbia, to the northwest by West Virginia, to the west by Kentucky, and to the south by Tennessee and North Carolina. It is officially named the Commonwealth of Virginia and is situated on the Atlantic Coast. Open carry is generally legal in Virginia even without a valid license to carry, although some localities ban or restrict this.

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A. State Constitution

Regarding the right to bear arms, the Virginia Constitution states:

“That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

[http://gunla.ws/du3a]

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B. Scope of Preemption

The controlling language of Virginia’s preemption statute is set forth as follows:

“No locality shall adopt or enforce any ordinance, resolution or motion, as permitted by § 15.2-1425, and no agent of such locality shall take any administrative action, governing the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof other than those expressly authorized by statute. For purposes of this section, a statute that does not refer to firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof, shall not be construed to provide express authorization.”

[http://gunla.ws/va1]

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C. Reciprocal Carry

By statute, Virginia will recognize all other state’s license to carry, provided that:

“1. The holder of such permit or license is at least 21 years of age; and 2.The permit or license holder carries a photo identification issued by a government agency of any state or by the U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Department of State; and
3. The holder displays the permit or license and such identification upon demand by a law-enforcement officer; and
4. The permit or license holder has not previously had a Virginia concealed handgun permit revoked.”

Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Virginia State Police at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur. A list of states, which Virginia has a reciprocal carry agreement with can be accessed at:

[http://gunla.ws/va2]

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D. Duty to Inform Officers

Virginia does not require individuals to inform a LEO of a permit or license to carry but if an Officer asks about a weapon, by law, an answer must be supplied. You are required to have Your license/permit with you at all times that you carry.  [http://gunla.ws/t4mb]

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E. Assault Weapons Law

Virginia defines an assault weapon as “any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol which 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, or a shotgun with a magazine which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered”.  Virginia restricts the sale and possession of assault weapons to US citizens who are at least 18 years old for a rifle/shotgun or 21 years old for a pistol.  Restrictions on carrying assault weapons may apply.

[http://gunla.ws/va3]

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F. NFA Items

Virginia permits ownership of all NFA items, provided they are legally obtained pursuant to federal law. MGs must be registered with the state police within 24 hours of acquisition. It is legal to use suppressors for hunting. Some DDs are prohibited outside of law enforcement. [http://gunla.ws/1c6h]

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G. Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

Virginia permits anyone who is legally allowed to possess firearms to carry a handgun without a permit, provided it is secured in a locked container or compartment. [http://gunla.ws/va4]

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H. Self-defense Laws

Virginia has a Castle Doctrine but no SYG law. There is no duty to retreat when in Your dwelling. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, the commission of a forcible felony, or to stop the unlawful & forcible entry into Your dwelling if You reasonably believe the intruder intends to harm an occupant of the dwelling.

[http://gunla.ws/va5]

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I. Criminal Provisions

Under Virginia law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances, whether Virginia issued it, or a person is carrying pursuant to a reciprocity agreement between his or her state of license and Virginia:

  • Hunting while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • While on the private property where the owner has prohibited possession
  • In places of worship
  • Court houses
  • School property and at school functions
  • Jail or Juvenile Detention Facilities
  • On the grounds of any state government building occupied by the executive branch
  • Domestic abusers must surrender their firearms within 24 hours of being served with a final family abuse protective order
  • State police will have a booth at every gun show and will offer to conduct background checks for $2 for people conducting private transfers. These background checks will be completely optional

For a list of places where carrying firearms is prohibited, see:

[http://gunla.ws/va6]

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J. Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?

No. “No Firearms” signs in Virginia do not have the force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in state law as being off limits to those with a permit/license to carry. However, as a possessor with a real property interest, a retailer, has the right to limit, and qualify the right to enter the property, subject to not carrying a handgun. It would be improper to enter, and the licensee would be subject to ejection for possession of a handgun thereat. Failure to leave once requested would subject the licensee to criminal charges.

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K. Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes. You are allowed to carry into any establishment that serves alcohol, including bars. You are prohibited from carrying while you consume alcohol or are under the influence of alcohol. [http://gunla.ws/96tz]

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L. Open Carry

Open carry is generally allowed without a permit for people 18 years of age and older. The following cities and counties have exceptions that disallow the open carry of “assault weapons” (any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or is designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock) or shotguns equipped with a magazine that holds more than 7 rounds: the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach and in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, and Prince William. These restrictions do not apply to valid concealed carry permit holders. [http://gunla.ws/wi8b]

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More