Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
In addition, Virginia prohibits the:
- Knowing and intentional possession, purchase, or transportation of a firearm by a person acquitted by reason of insanity and “committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services” on a charge of: 1) treason; 2) any felony; or 3) certain misdemeanors, unless his or her eligibility to purchase, possess or transport a firearm has been restored in accordance with Virginia law;1
- Purchase, possession or transportation of a firearm by any person adjudicated “legally incompetent,” “mentally incapacitated,” or “incapacitated,” whose competency or capacity has not been restored (Virginia enacted a law in 2011 establishing a procedure by which these individuals could petition for their eligibility to be restored);2
- Purchase, possession or transportation of a firearm by a person who has been involuntarily admitted to a facility designated by the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services or ordered to mandatory outpatient treatment pursuant to a finding of incompetence or as the result of a commitment hearing, or, who was the subject of a temporary detention order and subsequently agreed to voluntary admission to such a facility, unless his or her eligibility to purchase, possess or transport a firearm has been restored in accordance with Virginia law;3
- Purchase or transportation of a firearm by any person subject to a protective order, or certain other court orders, while the order is in effect, and possession of a firearm by a person subject to a protective order issued after a hearing;4
- Purchase or transportation of a handgun, for at least five years, by any person who, within a 36-month period, has been convicted of two or more misdemeanor drug offenses under Virginia law;5
- Purchase, possession, or transportation of a firearm by a person subject to an emergency substantial risk order, a substantial risk order, or a similar order issued in another jurisdiction.6 For more information about these orders, see Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Virginia;
- Purchase, possession, or transportation of a firearm by a person who has enrolled into the Virginia Voluntary Do Not Sell Firearms List (Effective July 1, 2021).7 See below for more information about this List.
- Knowing and intentional possession or transportation of a firearm by any person: 1) convicted of a felony; 2) adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile 14 years of age or older at the time of the offense of murder, kidnapping, robbery by the threat or presentation of firearms, or rape; or 3) who is under the age of 29 and was found guilty as a juvenile (14 years of age or older) of a delinquent act which would be a felony if committed by an adult, unless a court has, in its discretion and for good cause shown issued the person a permit to possess a firearm;8 or
- Knowing and intentional possession or transportation of a firearm by any person who is not a citizen of the U.S. or who is not lawfully present in the United States.9
A person prohibited from possessing, transporting, or carrying a firearm or ammunition may petition the circuit court of the jurisdiction in which he or she resides or, if the person is not a resident of the Commonwealth, the circuit court of any county or city where such person was last convicted of a felony or adjudicated delinquent of a disqualifying offense, for a permit to possess or carry a firearm or ammunition.10 However, a person who has been convicted of a felony is not qualified to petition for such a permit unless his or her civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.11
Any person 18 years of age or older may apply to the State Police to request voluntary enrollment in the Virginia Voluntary Do Not Sell Firearms List (the List) on forms prescribed by the State Police. The forms must state that a person will not be removed from the List until 21 days after the State Police receive an application for removal. Upon enrolling a person on the List, the State Police report the person to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.12 It is unlawful for any person to inquire whether someone is on the List for any reason other than to determine whether they are prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm. It is also unlawful for any person to discriminate against another person with respect to his health care services, employment, education, housing, insurance, governmental benefits, or contracting because that person is not on the List, is on the List, or has previously been on the List.13 Information about who is on the List must generally be withheld from public disclosure.14
For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Virginia Background Check Procedures section.
See our Firearm Prohibitions policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:1.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:2.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:3.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:4.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:5 (referencing Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-250 or 18.2-250.1).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:6.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:6.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2(A), (C). Id. These firearm prohibitions do not apply, however, to (i) any person who possesses a firearm while carrying out duties as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or of the National Guard of Virginia or any other state, (ii) any law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties, (iii) any person who has been pardoned or whose political disabilities have been removed under Virginia law, provided the Governor, in the document granting the pardon or removing the person’s political disabilities, may expressly place conditions upon the reinstatement of the person’s right to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms, (iv) any person whose right to possess firearms or ammunition has been restored under the law of another state subject to conditions placed upon the reinstatement of the person’s right to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms by such state, or (v) any person adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile who has completed a term of service of no less than two years in the Armed Forces and, if such person has been discharged, received an honorable discharge. Note that a convicted felon may not be issued a permit unless his or her civil rights have been restored. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2(B), (C).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:01.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2(C).
- Va. Code Ann. §§ 52-50, 52-51.
- Va. Code Ann. § 52-52.
- Va. Code Ann. § 52-50.