Gun Laws in Virginia

Gun laws regarding the use of firearms and self-defense are complicated (sometimes by design) and can fluctuate from state to state. As someone interested in self-defense who cares about the rule of law and protecting yourself and your family, it’s crucial to be well-informed about the laws that apply to you, at the federal, state, and local level. To help out with this difficult task, U.S. LawShield® is collaborating with experienced lawyers in the field of self-defense to produce a book of relevant gun laws for each state.

This time, we sat down with Gilbert Ambler who wrote the book Virginia Gun Law: Armed And Educated. We hope you’ll learn something useful as we talk a bit about the subject of that book and what makes gun laws in Virginia unique.

U.S. LawShield: Does Virginia have any unusual gun laws, compared to the rest of the United States?

Gilbert Ambler: “While every state is different, Virginia allows open carry without a permit, and concealed carry only with a permit. Virginia also ironically allows those without a concealed handgun permit to drink in public while open carrying a firearm, those choosing to open carry should be mindful that as private businesses, restaurants and bars have the right to exclude them from open carrying in their establishment.”

USLS: That is an interesting choice. What has been happening recently in Virginia regarding gun control laws?

GA: “Virginia has recently pushed to enact stricter gun control. Although ‘assault weapon’ bans have failed, many other measures, including red flag laws, weakened firearms pre-emption and universal background checks passed.”

USLS: Not great news, but I suppose it could have been worse. Can Virginians still possess a firearm at 18 years of age? Or must they be 21 years of age or older?

GA: “In Virginia, an 18-year-old can possess and even open carry a firearm, although they must be 21 years of age to obtain a concealed handgun permit. Although Virginia has universal background checks, an injunction has been granted, currently through June 30, 2022, to allow those who are otherwise eligible to possess firearms and between the ages of 18-20 to purchase a handgun through a private sale without a background check.”

USLS: And do gun laws in Virginia allow machine guns?

GA: “Machine guns are legal in Virginia, provided you comply with all portions of the National Firearms Act, and the Virginia Uniform Machine Gun Act, which includes a requirement of registration with the State Police within 24 hours of machine gun acquisition.”

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USLS: When do state laws require background checks in Virginia?

GA: “Virginia enacted ‘universal background checks’ in 2020. However, there are some exceptions. The most notable exceptions include a current exemption by injunction (currently through June 30, 2022) for the transfer of a handgun to those otherwise eligible to possess firearms and between the ages of 18-20 years old. An additional notable exception is a firearm transferred to another Virginia resident, who is eligible to possess firearms, as a true gift (meaning nothing of value was received in exchange for the firearm).”

USLS: Can Virginians own or carry concealed weapons if they are the subject of a protective order?

GA: “In Virginia, even a Temporary Protective Order will affect one’s right to transfer or purchase firearms (they must surrender their Concealed Handgun Permit for the duration of the Temporary Order). If someone is subject to a Permanent Protective Order (meaning they had a hearing and lost), then in addition to being unable to transfer or purchase firearms, they are also unable to possess firearms for the duration of the Order.”

USLS: Can you tell me how a Class 1 misdemeanor might affect a Virginian’s right to concealed carry, or possess a firearm?

GA: “In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor generally would not affect one’s ability to possess or carry firearms. There are some exceptions, however. If the misdemeanor is for a crime of domestic violence, under both Virginia and federal law it will render someone ineligible to possess firearms. Additionally, certain Class 1 misdemeanors, including DUI, brandishing, assault and battery, and willfully discharging a firearm in a public place will affect your ability to obtain a Concealed Handgun Permit for three years. Finally, if you are convicted of two misdemeanors within five years, with one of them being a Class 1 misdemeanor, it will affect one’s ability to obtain a Concealed Handgun Permit for five years.”

USLS: Circling back to your initial response, you said Virginians are permitted to carry concealed weapons without a license, and that Virginia gun law allows open carry without a permit, correct? So, what counts as open carry in your state?

GA: “Virginia law does allow you to open carry a firearm without a Concealed Handgun Permit, yes. A firearm is open carried when it is not ‘hidden from common observation.’”

USLS: Is a Virginian required to have demonstrated competence with a handgun prior to carrying a firearm?

GA: “To obtain a Concealed Handgun Permit in Virginia, you must first demonstrate competence with a handgun. There are several ways to do this. The most common ways include taking an in-person firearms training class, taking a hunter safety class, or having previously obtained a concealed handgun permit.”

USLS: Well, that’s all we have time for right now, but thanks for sitting down to talk to us. Hopefully, your book will help people defend themselves without breaking the law.

GA: “We hope so too, thank you!”


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The information provided in this publication is intended to provide general information to individuals and is not legal advice. The information included in this publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication without the prior written consent of U.S. LawShield, to be given or withheld at our discretion. The information is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. We strive to ensure the information included in this publication is accurate and current, however, no claim is made to the accuracy of the information and we are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of information in this publication. The use of this publication does not create an attorney-client relationship between U.S. LawShield, any independent program attorney, and any individual.