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Gun laws in Virginia regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the state of Virginia in the United States.[1][2]
Map of USA VA

Location of Virginia in the United States


The Constitution of Virginia protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms from government infringement.[3] The Commonwealth of Virginia preempts local regulation of several aspects of firearms, though some local regulation is explicitly permitted. Virginia passed the Uniform Machine Gun Act, which was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.[4][5] The only firearms in Virginia that are prohibited are the Armsel Striker, also known as the Striker 12, similar shotguns, and any "plastic firearms." Firearms must contain at least 3.7 ounces of electromagnetically detectable metal in the barrel, slide, cylinder, frame or receiver, and when subjected to x-ray machines, generate an image that accurately depicts their shape.[6] For example, Glock pistols which have polymer frames and metal slides and barrels are legal. There are no magazine capacity limitations, except that a concealed handgun permit is required in order to carry magazines with more than 20 rounds in some urban, public areas.[1][2]

Prohibited places include courthouses, air carrier terminals, schools, Capitol and General Assembly buildings (open carrying only, members of the General Assembly and those with a valid CHP are permitted in the Capitol General Assembly buildings), and churches, though some exceptions apply, including a 2011 Attorney General opinion that personal protection constitutes good and sufficient reason to carry at a church.[7] George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Polytechnic University (Virginia Tech) currently possess rules that prohibit firearms on school property.

A 2006 opinion issued by State Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell stated “...the governing boards of Virginia’s public colleges and universities may not impose a general prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons by permitted individuals... Pursuant to specific grants of statutory authority, however, it is my opinion that colleges and universities may regulate the conduct of students and employees to prohibit them from carrying concealed weapons on campus.”.[8]

In 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court found that the language used by George Mason to “...not impose a total ban of weapons on campus. Rather, the regulation is tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable – inside campus buildings and at campus events. Individuals may still carry or possess weapons on the open grounds of GMU, and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation.”[8]

There are age restrictions on the possession of firearms and some people are prohibited from possessing firearms due to certain criminal convictions. Licensed dealers must have the Virginia State Police conduct a background check prior to completing the sale of certain firearms. Persons who are not in the business of selling firearms, but make occasional, private sales, are not required to perform a background check before selling their firearms. Before July 1, 2012, a person could not purchase more than one handgun per 30-day period, though some exceptions applied; most significantly, holders of valid Concealed Handgun Permits (CHP) from Virginia were exempt from this restriction.[1][2] The bill that repealed the "one-handgun-a-month law" was signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell on February 28 of that year.[9]

Open carry of a handgun without a permit is legal in Virginia at age 18, withstanding other applicable laws. Concealed carry of a handgun is allowed for persons who hold a valid CHP, comply with certain restrictions, or who hold certain positions. Virginia shall issue a CHP to applicants 21 years of age or older, provided that they meet certain safety training requirements and do not have any disqualifying criminal convictions. Consuming an alcoholic beverage in ABC on-premise licensed restaurants and clubs, while carrying a concealed handgun, is prohibited; nor may any person carry a concealed handgun in a public place while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Those laws pertaining to alcohol do not apply to openly carried handguns, however possession of a firearm can compound the penalty for various other offenses, including illegal drug possession.[1][2][10]

Reciprocity with other statesEdit

A formal written agreement of reciprocity exists between Virginia and the Following States:

New Mexico
North Carolina
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

The following states have informally agreed to honor permits issued by Virginia:

North Dakota

Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit holders may petition the Police Department of the U.S. Virgin Islands for an individual temporary reciprocal recognition.

Summary tableEdit

Subject/Law Long Guns Handguns Relevant Statutes Notes
Permit to purchase required? No No
Firearm registration? No* No* *Automatic firearms are required to be registered with the state police.
Owner license required? No* No* *Proof of age and citizenship required for the purchase of "assault weapons".
Carry permits issued? No Yes § 18.2-308 Virginia is a "shall issue" state for concealed carry.
Open carry permitted? Yes Yes § 18.2-287.4. & § 18.2-282. Open carry is permitted with the exception of "assault weapons" and shotguns with a 7+ round magazine in the cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach and in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William. These restrictions do not apply to valid concealed carry permit holders. For open carry in a vehicle, the firearm must be clearly visible.
State preemption of local restrictions? Yes Yes § 15.2-915 Virginia has state preemption for most but not all firearm laws.
"Assault weapon" law? No* No* *Proof of age (18+ for long arms, 21+ for pistols) and proof of citizenship (or permanent residence license) are required for the purchase of "assault weapons". "Assault weapons" are defined as a semi-automatic, centerfire, firearm equipped with a folding/adjustable stock, or equipped at the time with a magazine capable of holding 20+ rounds, or capable of accommodating a silencer/suppressor.[11]
Magazine restriction? No* No* *Magazines capable of holding 20+ rounds are legal but, they make the firearm an "assault weapon", subject to law accordingly.
NFA weapons restricted? Yes Yes Automatic firearms must be registered with the state police. Plastic firearms and SOME destructive devices (such as the striker 12 shotgun) are prohibited outside law enforcement. SBS, SBR, AOW's, and silencers are legal with NFA paperwork.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Gun Laws: Virginia". National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Virginia State Law Summary". Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  3. "Article I, Section 13. Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  4. "Second Amendment Foundation – Firearm Regulation, by John Brabner-Smith". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  5. "University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Note, 98 (1950): 905. F.J.K". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  6. "Code of Virginia § 18.2–308.5". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  7. AG Opinion 11-043[dead link]
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Virginia Supreme Court Rules Against Campus Carry". 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  9. Meola, Olympia (2012-02-29). "McDonnell signs repeal of one-gun-a-month law". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  10. "LIS > Code of Virginia > 18.2-308". 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  11. "LIS > Code of Virginia > 18.2-308.2:01". Retrieved 2013-09-30. 

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