Gun Dealers in Virginia

See our Gun Dealers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

Virginia does not require firearms dealers to obtain a state license. For the laws requiring federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks on firearm purchasers, see the Virginia Background Checks section. Also see the Virginia Assault Weapons section for assault weapon sales-related provisions.

In 2010, Virginia repealed a law that had allowed counties to require sellers of handguns to furnish the clerk of the circuit court “with the name and address of the purchaser, the date of the purchase, and the number, make and caliber of the weapon sold” within 10 days of any handgun sale.1 The repealed law had also allowed a county to impose a license tax up to $25 on persons engaged in the business of selling handguns to the public.2

Virginia law prohibited a federally licensed firearms dealer from employing any person to act as a seller of firearms if the employee is an illegal alien, or is otherwise prohibited from possessing, purchasing or transporting a firearm under state law.3 Prior to permitting an applicant to begin employment, the dealer must obtain a written statement or affirmation from the applicant that he or she is not disqualified from possessing a firearm and must submit the applicant’s fingerprints and personal descriptive information to the Central Criminal Records Exchange to be forwarded to the FBI for a criminal history check.4 A dealer can obtain an exemption from this requirement if it submits a sworn notarized affidavit on a form prepared by the Department of State Police (“DSP”) stating that the seller was subjected to a record check prior to the ATF’s issuance of the federal license.5 Upon receipt of the request for a criminal history record information check, DSP must establish a unique number for that firearm seller.6 Beginning September 1, 2001, the firearm seller’s signature, firearm seller’s number and the dealer’s identification number shall be on all firearm transaction forms. DSP must void the seller’s number when a disqualifying record is discovered, and may suspend a seller’s number upon the seller’s arrest for a potentially disqualifying crime.7 This section does not restrict the transfer of a firearm at any place other than a dealership, or at any event required to be registered as a gun show.8

Virginia only allows firearms dealers to check whether a pre-owned firearm being transferred to a dealer from a non-dealer has been reported lost or stolen if the non-dealer consents to the check in writing.9

See the Virginia Private Sales section for laws that apply to gun sales generally.

Notes
  1. 2010 Va. ALS 495 (amending Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1207). ⤴︎
  2. Id. (repealing former Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1206). ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(A). ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(B). ⤴︎
  5. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(D1). ⤴︎
  6. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(G). ⤴︎
  7. Id. ⤴︎
  8. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:3(H). ⤴︎
  9. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:4. ⤴︎

Gun Industry Immunity in Virginia

Virginia law states that localities do not have the authority to bring suit against a firearms or ammunition marketer, manufacturer, distributor, dealer, seller, or trade association for damages, abatement, injunctive relief or any other remedy resulting from or relating to the lawful design, marketing, manufacture, distribution, sale, or transfer of firearms or ammunition to the public. This provision applies equally to any state governmental entity, including a department, agency, or authority. The right to bring any such action is reserved exclusively to the Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth.1 Localities may bring an action, however, against a firearms or ammunition marketer, manufacturer, distributor, dealer, seller, or trade association for breach of contract or warranty or negligence as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the locality or for injuries resulting from negligence or breach of warranty or contract.2

See our Gun Industry Immunity policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-915.1. ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎

Gun Shows in Virginia

In 2016, Virginia enacted a law requiring the State Police to be available at gun shows to conduct background checks on purchasers or transferees of firearms at the request of the parties to the transaction. The law provides immunity from liability to any person who sells or transfers a firearm to a person after receiving a determination from the State Police that the person is not prohibited from possessing a firearm. The promoter of a gun show must provide adequate space for the State Police to make these determinations, and must ensure that a notice that these determinations are available is prominently displayed at the show.1 Virginia law still does not require unlicensed sellers and transferors to seek this background check before the sale or transfer of a gun at a gun show.

Virginia law requires any person, firm, corporation, club, association, or organization holding a firearms show to give notice at least 30 days prior to the show to the State Police and the sheriff or chief of police of the locality in which the firearms show will be held.2 The notice must be given on a form provided by the State Police. A separate notice is required for each firearms show.3

The promoter must also maintain for the duration of the show a list of all vendors or exhibitors in the show for immediate inspection by any law-enforcement authorities.4 Within five days after the conclusion of the show, the promoter must transmit a copy of the complete vendor or exhibitor list to the law-enforcement authorities to which the 30-day prior notice was required. The vendor or exhibitor list must contain the full name and residence address and the business name and address, if any, of the vendors or exhibitors.5

Virginia law exempts from these requirements any firearms shows held in any town with a population of not less than 1,995 and not more than 2,010, according to the 1990 United States census.6

See the Virginia Private Sales section for additional state laws that may apply at gun shows.

See our Gun Shows policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 2016 VA H.B. 1386 (to be codified at Va. Code Ann. 54.1-4201.2). ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-4201.1(A). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-4201.1(C). ⤴︎

Guns in Schools in Virginia

Virginia prohibits the knowing possession of any firearm on:

  • Any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school, including buildings and grounds;
  • That portion of any property open to the public and exclusively used for school-sponsored functions or extracurricular activities while such functions or activities are taking place; and
  • Any school bus owned or operated by such school.1

The law provides exceptions for any person who possesses:

  • A firearm as a part of the school’s curriculum or activities;
  • A firearm as a part of any program sponsored or facilitated by either the school or any organization authorized by the school to conduct its programs either on or off the school premises;
  • An unloaded firearm in a closed container in or upon a motor vehicle, or an unloaded shotgun or rifle in a firearms rack in or upon a motor vehicle; or
  • A valid concealed handgun permit and a concealed handgun while in a motor vehicle in a parking lot, traffic circle, or other means of vehicular ingress or egress to the school.2

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Virginia rejected a challenge to George Mason University’s regulation restricting the possession and carrying of firearms inside campus buildings and at campus events.3 The court pointed out that the regulation was tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable. Individuals could still carry or possess weapons on the open grounds of this public university, and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation.4

See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1(B). Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-277.07(A) provides that a school board must expel for at least one year any student who has brought a firearm, air rifle or BB gun onto school property or to a school-sponsored activity. Also see Op. Att’y Gen. Va. 03-083 (2003), 2003 Va. AG LEXIS 46 (opining that the school board may discipline a student in possession of an unloaded firearm in a locked vehicle trunk). ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1(B). ⤴︎
  3. Digiacinto v. Rector & Visitors of George Mason Univ., 704 S.E.2d 365, 369 (Va. 2011). ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎

Guns in Vehicles in Virginia

While Virginia generally prohibits any person from carrying a concealed firearm about the person, this prohibition does not apply to individuals licensed to carry a concealed handgun.1 In addition, a law enacted in Virginia in 2010 exempts from the general prohibition against carrying concealed weapons any person who may lawfully possess a firearm and is carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel if the handgun is secured in a container or compartment.2

Local governments are also prohibited from adopting a workplace rule that prevents their employees from storing lawfully possessed firearms in their locked vehicles while parking at work.3

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(A). The prohibition also does not apply to any person carrying such weapons between his place of abode and a place of purchase or repair, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(B)(5). ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308(B)(10). See also Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-287.4. (stating that “The exemptions set forth in § 18.2-308 shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to the provisions of this section.”). ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-915 ⤴︎

Machine Guns & Automatic Firearms in Virginia

Virginia law allows the possession of a machine gun for scientific purposes or for any purpose manifestly not aggressive or offensive.1 However, Virginia law requires every machine gun to be registered with the Department of State Police within 24 hours after its acquisition.2 Possession or use of a machine gun is presumed to be for an offensive or aggressive purpose when: (i) the machine gun is on premises not owned or rented for bona fide permanent residence or business occupancy by the person in whose possession the machine gun may be found; (ii) the machine gun is in the possession of, or used by, a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence; (iii) the machine gun has not been registered as required by Virginia law; or (iv) empty or loaded shells which have been or are susceptible of use in the machine gun are found in the immediate vicinity thereof.3

An application to register a machine gun must be notarized and show the model and serial number of the gun, the name, address and occupation of the person in possession, and from whom and the purpose for which the gun was acquired or altered.4 The Superintendent of State Police must furnish the registrant with a certificate of registration, which is valid as long as the registrant remains the same. Certificates of registration must be retained by the registrant and produced by him or her upon demand by any peace officer.5 Any peace officer may, without warrant, seize any machine gun if the owner does not comply. Upon transferring a registered machine gun, the transferor must notify the Superintendent, in writing, setting forth the date of transfer and name and address of the transferee. Registration data is not subject to inspection by the public.6

Every manufacturer or dealer must keep a register of all machine guns manufactured or handled by him or her that shows the model and serial number, date of manufacture, sale, loan, gift, delivery or receipt of every machine gun, the name, address, and occupation of the person to whom the machine gun was sold, loaned, given or delivered, or from whom it was received.7 Upon demand every manufacturer or dealer must permit any marshal, sheriff, or police officer to inspect his or her entire stock of machine guns, parts, and supplies therefor, and shall produce the register for inspection.8

“Machine gun” means “any weapon which shoots or is designed to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”9

Federal law requires machine guns to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and generally prohibits the transfer or possession of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986.10 In December 2018, ATF finalized a rule to include bump stocks within the definition of a machine gun subject to this federal law, meaning that bump stocks will be generally banned as of March 26, 2019.11

See our Machine Guns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-293.1. Unlawful possession or use of a machine gun for an offensive or aggressive purpose is a Class 4 felony. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-290. ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-295. See also Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-293.1. ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-291. ⤴︎
  4. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-295. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎
  7. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-294. ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-288(1). ⤴︎
  10. 18 U.S.C. § 922(o); 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). ⤴︎
  11. Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. 66,514 (Dec. 26, 2018) (to be codified at 27 C.F.R. pts. 447, 478, 479). ⤴︎

Maintaining Records of Gun Sales in Virginia

In Virginia, firearms dealers must keep the original background check consent form (required as part of every Virginia firearms sale) for at least two years, and permit certain law enforcement officers to examine and copy a form related to a particular firearm in the course of a bona fide criminal investigation.1

Every firearm manufacturer or dealer must also keep a register of all machine guns, “sawed-off” rifles and “sawed-off” shotguns manufactured, sold, loaned, given or delivered, and must on demand allow any police officer to inspect his or her entire stock of such weapons and produce the register for inspection.2

Virginia law prohibits the Department of State Police (“DSP”) from maintaining dealer background check records longer than 30 days for any request “pertaining to a buyer or transferee who is not found to be prohibited from possessing and transporting a firearm under state or federal law.”3 However, records of multiple handgun transactions must be maintained for twelve months, and the log on all background check requests (which consists of the name of the purchaser, the dealer identification number, the unique approval number and the transaction date) may be maintained for twelve months.4

In 2010, Virginia repealed a law that had allowed counties to require sellers of handguns to furnish the clerk of the circuit court “with the name and address of the purchaser, the date of the purchase, and the number, make and caliber of the weapon sold” within 10 days of any handgun sale. The new law also required the courts to destroy every record of the reports previously received.5

See our Maintaining Records of Gun Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-4201. ⤴︎
  2. Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-294 and 18.2-304. ⤴︎
  3. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(B)(3). ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. 2010 Va. ALS 495 (amending Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-1207). ⤴︎