By Rebecca Wade

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.

Is There a Minimum Age Requirement to Possess a Firearm in 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.

What Will Prevent Me from Owning a Firearm?

“Under Virginia law, the only thing that’s really going to prohibit you from possessing a firearm are felony convictions,” says Wade.

“However, under federal law, there are many more types of charges that could impact your gun rights. For example, if you are convicted of crimes of domestic violence under federal law, you will lose your right to possess a firearm. Additionally, under federal law, you can’t own a gun if you are a habitual user of narcotics.”

Does Virginia Have a Firearm Registry?

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 it’s used in a criminal offense.”

Is Virginia an Open Carry State?

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 where 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.”

What is Brandishing a Firearm?

“Brandishing a firearm is to hold or point a gun in a manner that would reasonably induce fear in another,” says Wade. “So while you are allowed to be outside in the open with a gun, you can’t just walk up and point a gun at someone. That would clearly be brandishing a firearm.” These charges often arise when people go out drinking and get into an argument which then leads one of the individuals to threaten the other with a firearm.

Is Brandishing a Firearm Illegal?

While it is legal to open carry a gun, brandishing a firearm is still illegal. So long as the gun is not being pointed or held in a manner that is intended to induce fear in someone, it is not considered brandishing. “For example, if someone is walking around with a firearm that is secured in a holster, that’s legal,” explains Wade. “But the minute that individual takes the gun out of the holster and points it at someone on a corner, that’s now considered brandishing and you can be arrested.”

Is Virginia a Concealed Carry State?

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.

Who Has the Right to Carry a Concealed Firearm?

While it’s true that in Virginia you can possess a firearm so long as you have not been convicted of a felony, not everyone has the right to carry a firearm concealed. According to Wade, there are “felonies as well as some misdemeanors that will prevent you from being able to get a concealed carry permit” such as substance abuse convictions.

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.

Once your application is approved and you receive your concealed carry permit you can take it anywhere in Virginia other than places that have specifically banned firearms based by virtue of it being a publicly owned building.

When to Contact An Attorney

If your right to possess and carry firearms is important to you and you’re charged with any type of criminal offense, it’s important to ask an experienced attorney at the outset how those charges will affect your gun rights in Virginia.

About the Author

This is a photo of Rebecca Wade. She is a family law and criminal defense attorney at Old Town Lawyers.

Rebecca Janet Wade

Rebecca Wade is a partner at Wade Grimes Friedman Meinken & Leischner PLLC, practicing in all areas of family law and criminal law having experience with protective orders, divorce, child custody and visitation, child protective services investigations, juvenile delinquency, and criminal charges.

Wade has been named a 2023 Best Lawyer in America by U.S. News & World Report, a 2023 Super Lawyer in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C., and a 2020-2021 Top Lawyer by Northern Virginia Magazine.

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