Virginia allows a person to carry a concealed handgun if he or she has a permit.1 However, the prohibition against carrying a concealed handgun without a permit does not apply to:
- Any person while in his or her own place of abode or the curtilage thereof;
- Any person while in his or her own place of business;
- Any regularly enrolled member of a target shooting organization who is at, or going to or from, an established shooting range, or any regularly enrolled member of a weapons collecting organization who is at, or going to or from, a bona fide weapons exhibition, provided that the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported;
- Any person carrying such weapons between his or her place of abode and a place of purchase or repair, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported;
- Any person actually engaged in lawful hunting under inclement weather conditions necessitating temporary protection of his or her firearm from those conditions;
- Carriers of the United States mail in the discharge of their official duties, or while in transit to or from such duties;
- Any attorney or assistant attorney for the Commonwealth in the discharge of his or her official duties, or while in transit to or from such duties.2
Virginia is a “shall issue” state, meaning that the circuit court of the county or city in which the applicant resides must issue a concealed weapons permit if the applicant meets certain basic qualifications. More specifically, Virginia law provides, in part, that “[a]ny person 21 years of age or older may apply in writing to the clerk of the circuit court of the county or city in which he resides… for a five-year permit to carry a concealed handgun.”3 Virginia law requires the court to consult with either the sheriff or police department of the county or city where the applicant resides and receive a report from the Central Criminal Records Exchange.
The court may authorize the clerk to issue a permit without judicial review, to applicants “for whom the criminal history records check does not indicate a disqualification and, after consulting with either the sheriff or police department of the county or city, about which there are no outstanding questions or issues concerning the application.” The 2010 law also states that only a circuit court judge may deny issuance of a permit.4
Virginia law disqualifies any person from obtaining a permit who:
- Is prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons under federal law;
- Has been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity unless he or she was discharged from custody more than five years ago;
- Has been adjudicated legally incompetent or incapacitated unless his or her competency or capacity was restored more than five years ago;
- Has been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment, or the subject of a temporary detention order who agrees to voluntary admission to a mental health facility, unless, in the case of involuntary admission, he or she was released more than five years ago;
- Is subject to an emergency substantial risk order, a substantial risk order, or a similar order issued in another jurisdiction;
- Has been convicted of a felony or has a felony charge pending;
- Is under age 29 and was found guilty as a juvenile at age 14 or older of an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult under federal law or the laws of any state. A person who would be disqualified based on adjudications as a juvenile will not be disqualified if he or she has completed a term of service of no less than two years in the Armed Forces of the United States and, if such person has been discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States, received an honorable discharge;
- Has been convicted of two or more misdemeanors within the last five years (with certain exceptions);
- Has been convicted of any assault, assault and battery, sexual battery, discharging a firearm in a public place, or brandishing a firearm within the last three years, or has such a charge pending;
- Has been convicted of stalking, or has such a charge pending;
- Is subject to a restraining order or protective order against family abuse or to protect the health and safety of any person;
- Has received mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment in a residential setting within the last five years;
- Is an alien other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent resident in the U.S.;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Was discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
- Is addicted to, or is an unlawful user or distributor of marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, or any controlled substance (or who has been convicted of possession of such a substance within the last three years, including where judgment of guilt is deferred pending a probationary period);
- Has been convicted in or out of state of drunk driving or of public drunkenness within the last three years, or who is a “habitual drunkard”; or
- Has been found “likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others” based on a sworn statement by local law enforcement (based on their personal knowledge, or that of another competent person).5
In addition, Virginia law states that a concealed handgun permit holder convicted of being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while carrying a concealed handgun in a public place shall have his or her permit revoked and shall be ineligible to apply for a new permit for five years.6
Firearm Safety Training
Virginia concealed weapon permit applicants must provide proof that the applicant has demonstrated competence with a handgun by one of the following:
- An approved hunting or firearms course;
- Evidence of equivalent experience with a firearm; or
- Proof that the applicant previously held a license to carry a firearm in Virginia, unless such license has been revoked for cause.7
Virginia requires concealed weapon permit applicants to fulfill this requirement with in-person training conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor, as opposed to an electronic, video, or online course.8
Duration & Renewal
Virginia permits to carry concealed handguns are valid for five years.9 Permit holders “shall be issued” a renewal permit by submitting a new application, unless the permit holder has become disqualified for a permit under the categories listed above.10 Renewal applicants are not required to appear in person and the application for the new permit may be submitted via mail.11
Disclosure or Use of Information
A law enacted in Virginia in 2009 requires the State Police to withhold information about permits and permit holders from public disclosure, however, in 2014, the prohibition against disclosure of application information was relaxed to allow the release of a reference to the issuance of a concealed handgun permit in any order book before July 1, 2008.12 The law allows disclosure:
- To law enforcement agencies and officers for law enforcement purposes;
- Of records by the State Police concerning permits issued to nonresidents; and
- Of statistical summaries, abstracts, or other records containing information in an aggregate form that does not identify any individual permittees.13
Virginia law also states that concealed weapons permit applications may be destroyed at the discretion of the clerk of each circuit court after 10 years.14 Fingerprints taken as part of a concealed handgun permit application may not be copied, held or used for any other purposes.15 Upon completion of the criminal history records check, the State Police must return the fingerprint cards to the submitting local agency or, in the case of scanned fingerprints, destroy the electronic record. All fingerprint cards not claimed by the applicant within 21 days of notification by the local agency must be destroyed.16
In 2016, Virginia enacted a universal reciprocity law that grants recognition to concealed handgun permits issued by any other state, provided: (1) the issuing state or local authority provides the means for instantaneous verification of the validity of all such permits, (2) the person displays the permit and photo ID upon demand of a law enforcement officer, and (3) the person has not had a Virginia permit revoked.17
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- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(A).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(B), (C).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.09.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(J1). Additional application and background check requirements, as well as permit suspension and disqualification information, are detailed under Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D)-(P1).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(G).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(G)(7).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(I).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.02(D).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(K).
- Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-213(B)(2).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(D).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.014 as amended by 2016 VA H 1163/S 610.