Firearm legislation differs between states, making it difficult for people to understand what’s legal and what’s not. It is important to be aware of the state laws where you reside, work and visit. Criminal defense attorney Rebecca Wade explains gun laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

While there are many child safety issues regarding gun use, in Virginia, there is no minimum age requirement to possess a firearm. “In fact, it is quite common for children to go out hunting with their parents at a young age,” says Wade. While people of any age are able to possess a gun, you must be 18 years or older to purchase one.

Virginia law allows the open carry of a firearm to any individual except those convicted of a felony. This means that as long as others can see that you have a gun you are allowed to walk around with it freely. There are a few places even open carry is denied, explains Wade. “Possession of a gun is prohibited in establishments that sell or distribute alcohol, such as a bar or liquor store. In addition, owners of private property have the right to prohibit firearms on their premises.”

While it is legal to open carry a gun, brandishing a firearm is still illegal. Wade describes brandishing as to “hold or point a firearm in a manner that would reasonably induce fear in another.” She explains that we often see this when people get into a fight while drinking. Sometimes when the fight escalates one person pulls out a gun and threatens the other, this is brandishing.

One of the most polarizing issues when it comes to gun control is concealed carry. “In order to carry a firearm that is concealed from public view, such as in a purse, under your jacket or in your glove compartment in your car, you must have a permit,” explains Wade. To get a concealed carry permit you must take a firearm safety course and submit an application to the circuit court. The Circuit Court can then approve or deny your application. According to Wade, there are “felonies as well as some misdemeanors will prevent you from being able to get a concealed carry permit” such as substance abuse convictions. Once your application is approved and you receive your concealed carry permit you can take in anywhere in Virginia other than places that have specifically banned firearms based by virtue of it being a publicly owned building.

Another topic of confusion is the idea of a firearm registry. The Commonwealth of Virginia does register gun owners. When you purchase a gun, you do not report to anyone that you have done so. Wade urges “if your gun gets stolen you need to report it as a stolen firearm to the police in case its used in a criminal offense.”