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Know the Laws: Virginia

UPDATED November 18, 2016

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Below is information about state gun laws in Virginia.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state. To find an agency, please go to the VA Where to Find Help page to find help.

Basic Info

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws.  If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor.  If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?  If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun.  A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor.  A felony under Virginia state law is an offense that is punishable by death or confinement in a state correctional facility.*  However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down.  If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the local criminal courthouse and try to search the records.   

A felony under federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.**

* Va. Code § 18.2-8
** 18 USC § 3559

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Under Virginia law, a person is not eligible to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun if s/he:

  • was acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity and committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, although s/he can apply for a permit five years after being released by the Commissioner;*
  • was declared legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated by a court, although s/he can apply for a permit five years after his/her capacity was "restored";*1
  • was involuntarily admitted to a facility or ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment, or who was the subject of a temporary detention order and subsequently agreed to voluntary admission; although s/he can apply for a permit five years after s/he was released from commitment;*2
  • has received mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment in a residential setting within the past five years;*3 
  • has an emergency, preliminary, or final protective order issued against him/her due to:
    • family abuse;
    • an act of violence, force or threat; 
    • a protective order issued as part of a divorce;
    • an order issued due to abuse/neglect of a child;
    • or a similar restraining order as any of the above that was issued by another state;*4 
  • has been convicted of, or has a charge pending for, a felony;*5 
  • was convicted of, or has a charge pending for, any assault, assault and battery, sexual battery, discharging of a firearm, or brandishing of a firearm within the past three years;*6 
  • was convicted of, or has a charge pending for, stalking;*7 
  • within the past three years, was found guilty of any criminal drug offense (listed in Article 1 of the law, beginning with section 18.2-247) or of a criminal offense of illegal possession or distribution of marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, or any controlled substance in another state; (Note: This includes a first-time offender who was sentenced to probation and, upon fulfilling the terms of probation, had the conviction discharged and the proceedings dismissed);*8 
  • is a fugitive from justice;*9
  • as a minor, had a previous conviction/adjudication of delinquency (within the past 16 years of the date of the conviction or release from incarceration, whichever is later) for an offense that would have been a felony if committed by an adult; (Note: This doesn't apply if the person later completed at least two years in the Armed Forces and was honorably discharged);*10
  • is under age 29 and was adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile (14 or older) for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult (or, regardless of one's current age, was adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile for murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, or rape);*11
  • was convicted of two or more misdemeanors within the past five years and one of the misdemeanors was a Class 1 misdemeanor (Note: Even if none of them were Class 1 misdemeanors, a judge can still decide to deny the permit);*12 
  • is addicted to, or is an unlawful user or distributor of, marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids (i.e., K2, Spice, etc.), or any controlled substance;*13
  • within the past three years, was convicted of driving while intoxicated, public drunkenness, or a substantially similar offense under the laws of any other state;*14 
  • was declared a "habitual drunkard" by the court and an order of interdiction prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to him/her was entered by the court;*15  
  • is an immigrant who was not lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States (in other words, you have to be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident to get a permit);*16 
  • was discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;*17 or
  • is someone who the judge determines is likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others (based on specific acts s/he committed). Note: The sheriff, chief of police, or attorney for the Commonwealth would have to submit to the court a sworn, written statement indicating that, in his/her opinion and based upon personal knowledge of specific acts committed, the person is likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others.*18 

* Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.1:1(A); 18.2-308.09(1),(2) 
*1 Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.1:2(A); 18.2-308.09(1),(3) 
*2 Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.1:3(A); 18.2-308.09(1),(4)  
*3 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(18)
*4 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(5) 
*5 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(6),(17) 
*6 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(14),(17)
*7 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(15),(17)
*8 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(19),(20)
*9 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(12)
*10 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(16)
*11 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(6) 
*12 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(7)
*13 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(8)
*14 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(9)
*15 Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.09(9); 4.1-333(A)
*16 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(10); see Va. Code § 18.2-308.2:01
*17 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(11)
*18 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(13)

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