Summary of Virginia Gun Laws
Virginia is a shall-issue state. For residents, applications are filed with the circuit court in their county of residence, and non-residents must mail their application to the State Police.
There is no permit or firearms registration required when buying a handgun from a private individual, provided the buyer and seller are both Virginia residents. However, based on SB70/HB2 being signed into law, as of July 1, 2020, all sales are required to be completed through a dealer who must submit a background check. Additionally, a one handgun per month purchase restriction is now in effect, although concealed carry permit holders are exempt.
Open carry is legal in Virginia without a permit for anyone who is at least 18 years old who can legally possess a firearm. However, Localities, such as Alexandria and Newport News may ban the open carry of firearms in public buildings, parks and at special events.
Concealed carry is legal for residents with a Virginia Handgun Permit (HP) and non-residents with any valid state license/permit. Virginia HPs are issued to both residents and non-residents at least 21 years old and require a state-approved firearms training course and demonstrated competence with the firearm. Some areas are off-limits, including airport terminals and places of worship during services. In addition, municipalities may ban guns in government buildings and areas such as public parks, recreation or community centers, and outdoor areas being used during permitted events. In terms of reciprocity, Virginia honors all out-of-state concealed carry permits.
Although not codified by statute, Virginia case law supports self-defense, a version of the castle doctrine and stand your ground in certain circumstances. There is no duty to retreat, and you can defend yourself at any location you are legally permitted to be.
Defense of Self or Others
Virginia law allows the use of self-defense where a person, who is not the aggressor:
- Reasonably believes the person is in imminent danger of an overt act threatening unlawful force, serious bodily harm or death; and
- Uses the amount of force reasonable in relation to the threat.
A person may only use deadly force if there was a present danger of great bodily injury. An individual is allowed to defend not only his or her person from harm if the person being defended would have been justified in using self-defense.
Defense of Dwelling
Although Virginia law does not allow deadly force to prevent an entry into a home or dwelling, non-deadly force may be used to prevent an unlawful entry into a dwelling. Deadly force is only justified in circumstances where a person reasonably believes the intruder will commit great bodily injury or death.