Virginia’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access firearms, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Virginia
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Significant access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Some access||Significant access||Some access|
Virginia law provides for extended prison terms for hate-motivated assault and battery offenses specifically: it is a felony in Virginia to commit an “assault and battery resulting in bodily injury” if the offender selected the victim on the basis of race, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.1Unless the victim suffered bodily injury, however, violent hate-motivated assault and battery offenses are classified as misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year confinement.2
Virginia generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony.3 Federal law similarly prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.4 In Virginia, misdemeanors are punishable by no more than one year,5 so hate crime offenders are generally subject to state and federal firearm restrictions only if they are convicted of felonies.
As described above, Virginia generally makes it a felony to perpetrate a hate-motivated assault and battery resulting in bodily injury, or to make credible threats of violence in a written or electronic communication.6 People convicted of these offenses are generally prohibited from accessing guns under both state and federal law in Virginia.
However, people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access firearms under Virginia and federal law, including those convicted of assault and batteries that do not result in bodily injury, making verbal threats of violence, threateningly brandishing a firearm, or stalking.7
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- Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-57(B). Virginia law also requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes to the State Police Department, and defines a “hate crime” for these purposes. See Va. Code Ann. § 52-8.5. Other Virginia laws criminalize specific hate-motivated conduct, including a law that makes it a felony to conspire to “incite the population of one race to acts of violence and war against the population of another race.” Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-485.
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-57(A); Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-11(a).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2(A).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-11.
- Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-57(B); Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-60(A)(1).
- See Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-57(A) (Simple assault or assault and battery without bodily injury); 18.2-282 (Threateningly brandishing a firearm); Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-60.3 (Stalking).