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Legal Information: Virginia

State Gun Laws

December 4, 2020

I do not have a protective order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he own a gun?

Even if you do not have a protective order for family abuse or a protective order for an act of violence, force, or threat against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime, it is illegal for a person to have or buy a firearm 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;1
  • was declared legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated by a court;2
  • as an adult or as a minor who is age 14 or older, s/he was:
    • involuntarily admitted to a facility;
    • ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment;
    • the subject of a temporary detention order and subsequently agreed to voluntary admission; or
    • found incompetent to stand trial and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future;3
  • has an emergency, preliminary, or final protective order issued against him/her as part of a divorce or due to abuse/neglect of a child from any state;
  • has a substantial risk order against him/her or a similar order issued by another state;4
  • is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;5
  • is under 18 unless certain exceptions are met. Note: The law specifically prohibits possessing a handgun and assault firearm, not all firearms.6

In addition, even if the laws, explained above, do not prohibit a person from having a firearm, there are additional restrictions when it comes to carrying a concealed handgun. A person is not eligible for a permit to carry a concealed handgun if:

  • is addicted to, or is an unlawful user or distributor of, marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids (i.e., K2, Spice, etc.), or any controlled substance;7
  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • was discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;8
  • 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;9
  • 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;
  • has a charge pending for stalking;10
  • has received mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment in a residential setting within the past five years.11

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Staying Safe page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our VA Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Virginia, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun under other circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:1(A)
2 Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:2(A)
3 Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:3(A)
4 Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4
5 Va. Code § 18.2-308.2:01(A)
6 Va. Code § 18.2-308.7
7 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(8)
8 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(11), (12)
9 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(13)
10 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(17)
11 Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(18)

The abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

According to Virginia state law, someone who was convicted of a felony (or was adjudicated delinquent for certain serious offenses) can use a firearm while performing work duties if s/he is a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard, or a law enforcement officer.1

There are similar exceptions under federal law.2 See The abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply? in our Federal Gun Laws section for more information.

If you are confused or not sure whether the abuser can still use his/her gun for work purposes, you can call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.

1 Va. Code § 18.2-308.2(B)
2 See 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

I've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about how firearm laws apply to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  See our VA Advocates and Shelters page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.