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Legal Information: Virginia

State Gun Laws

Updated: 
December 4, 2020

If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime that involved the use of a firearm, or if s/he has concealed, possessed, transported or carried a weapon in violation of the law, it will be forfeited to the state of Virginia and destroyed or possibly sold to a licensed firearms dealer.1

If you get a protective order for family abuse or if a substantial risk protection order is issued, the judge will order the abuser to do any of the following within 24 hours after being served with the order:

  • surrender the firearms to a local law-enforcement agency; or
  • sell or transfer the firearms a licensed firearm dealer or to someone who is lawfully able to possess firearms.2

If the abuser surrenders the firearms to law enforcement, s/he can get the guns back once the protective order expires. However, the abuser must make a written request for the return of the guns within 120 days after the expiration of the order or else the guns will become the property of law enforcement.3

1 Va. Code §§ 19.2-386.29; 19.2-386.28
2 Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4(C)
3 Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4(E)

Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the state police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our VA Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Virginia on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer. 

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our VA Advocates and Shelters page. 

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.1 

1 United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from legally buying a gun. Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system. Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate. Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website