Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms?
Yes. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
Virginia is a shall-issue state, meaning authorities are required to issue carry permits to qualified applicants. Qualified applicants must be at least 21 years of age and demonstrate competence with a handgun by taking one of a number of courses, which can include a hunter education course, a National Rifle Association training course, or firearms training courses offered by law enforcement agencies or colleges.
Virginia does not issue permits to persons who are barred from gun ownership due to being a convicted felon, anyone who has been convicted of drunkenness or a violent misdemeanor within the past three years, anyone who was involuntarily committed within the past five years, anyone who is a habitual drunkard or who is addicted to drugs, and anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military. A sheriff or chief of police can also issue a sworn statement that the applicant is likely to use a weapon to endanger others.
Application for a carry permit is made through the circuit court clerk’s office in each county. Permits are issued within 45 days. The permits are valid for five years at a cost of up to $100.
Virginia’s carry permits are honored by the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
Virginia honors permits from the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Despite legislative attempts to pass castle doctrine bills backed by the National Rifle Association, Virginia has not passed such legislation and is not considered a castle doctrine state.
In 2011, a bill that would have allowed the legal occupants of a dwelling to use deadly force against intruders, and provided civil immunity in situations where physical or deadly force was used, was not successful.
While case law in Virginia has generally held that deadly force is justifiable if an intruder presents a threat of serious bodily injury or death to the occupants of a home, those court opinions have not been especially favorable to crime victims. For one, it is the duty of the person using force to present reasonable doubt in his defense by convincing judges or juries that force was necessary. For another, courts in Virginia have long held that landowners are not permitted to brandish a firearm against trespassers on their property. Doing so, in some cases even merely raising one’s shirt to allow the intruder to see the firearm, results in assault charges.
Open carry is generally permissible in Virginia. However, the state does have a law that allows counties to carry loaded firearms on public highways for the purpose of hunting, as well as another law that allows counties or cities to pass an ordinance banning the possession of loaded shotguns or rifles on public roads.
The above two exemptions withstanding, Virginia has a firearms preemption law that prevents cities or counties from enacting gun laws that are more restrictive than state law. The state also has a range protection law that extends protection to gun firing ranges.
Gun bans: So-called “street sweeper” shotguns are banned in Virginia. These are semi-automatic shotguns with a folding stock and spring-tension drum magazines capable of holding 12 rounds.
Waiting periods for gun purchases: None.
License or permit to purchase guns: None, unless a person wishes to purchase a handgun within 30 days of his last purchase. In such situations, a permit is required. However, persons with carry permits are exempt.
Registration of guns: None.
Places in Virginia where it is illegal to carry a gun, with or without a permit, include:
- Any establishment with signs posted barring firearms.