Virginia Gun Laws
Who can possess a Firearm?
This is a very broad question and can be misleading. The more accurate question should be, who is prohibited from possessing a firearm; not, who can possess a firearm? The United States Constitution gives every citizen the right to keep and bear arms. This expansive right does have limits however. Certain categories of persons, like minors, and mentally impaired persons may not possess a firearm. Also, a felony conviction as well as certain other crimes, will prohibit you from lawfully possessing or purchasing a firearm. There are also certain types of firearms that require special licenses and additional taxes to be paid prior to possessing them. Additionally, there are certain types of firearms that the average person simply cannot possess or purchase.
Possession Versus Purchasing
An issue that requires clarification is the difference between possessing a firearm and purchasing a firearm. The law is more restrictive for those who want to purchase a firearm than those who simply want to possess a firearm. There are both Federal and State laws that govern firearm possession and purchase. You must know both Federal and State law to properly determine whether or not you can possess or purchase a firearm.
General Rule for Possessing a Firearm
Generally speaking, anyone over the age of eighteen (18) may possess a firearm unless you are otherwise prohibited by federal, state, or local laws.
General Rule for Possession: If you are over the age of eighteen (18), a citizen of the United States, or lawfully in the United States, you can exercise your Constitutional right to possess a firearm.
Exceptions to age requirements
A child under that age of eighteen (18) is not allowed to possess or transport a firearm unless the they fall under one of the following exceptions: (meaning a child can possess a firearm provided they fall under one the following exceptions):
- The child is in his home or on his property
- The child is in the home or on the property of his parent, grandparent, or legal guardian;
General Rule for Purchasing a Firearm
The general rule for purchasing a firearm is that anyone eighteen (18) years or older may purchase a rifle or shotgun. Anyone twenty-one (21) years old or older may purchase a handgun, unless you are otherwise prohibited by federal, state, or local laws.
General Rule for Purchase: Anyone eighteen (18) years or older may purchase a rifle or shotgun (long gun). Anyone twenty-one (21) years old or older may purchase a handgun, unless you are otherwise prohibited by federal, state, or local laws.
Age Requirements For Purchasing a Firearm
Federal law prohibits licensed dealers from selling long guns to persons under eighteen (18) and selling handguns to persons under twenty-one (21).
This can cause confusion because there is no federal regulation of the sale of long guns or handguns by unlicensed persons to minors. Meaning, an individual could sell or gift his long gun or handgun to a minor without violating any Federal law.
However, many states, including Virginia, impose minimum age requirements for the purchase or possession of a firearm. Virginia code 18.2-308.7 prohibits any person under age eighteen (18) from knowingly and intentionally possessing or transporting a handgun or assault firearm, or a shotgun anywhere in Virginia. However, there are several important exceptions.
 18 USC § 922(b)(1) (b) It shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector to sell or deliver—(1) any firearm or ammunition to any individual who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe is less than eighteen years of age, and, if the firearm, or ammunition is other than a shotgun or rifle, or ammunition for a shotgun or rifle, to any individual who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe is less than twenty-one years of age;
 § 18.2-308.7. Possession or transportation of certain firearms by persons under the age of 18; penalty
It shall be unlawful for any person under 18 years of age to knowingly and intentionally possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm anywhere in the Commonwealth. For the purposes of this section, “handgun” means any pistol or revolver or other firearm originally designed, made and intended to fire single or multiple projectiles by means of an explosion of a combustible material from one or more barrels when held in one hand and “assault firearm” means any (i) semi-automatic centerfire rifle or pistol which expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock or (ii) shotgun with a magazine which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered. A violation of this section shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor.
This section shall not apply to:
- Any person (i) while in his home or on his property; (ii) while in the home or on the property of his parent, grandparent, or legal guardian; or (iii) while on the property of another who has provided prior permission, and with the prior permission of his parent or legal guardian if the person has the landowner’s written permission on his person while on such property;
- Any person who, while accompanied by an adult, is at, or going to and from, a lawful shooting range or firearms educational class, provided that the weapons are unloaded while being transported;
- Any person actually engaged in lawful hunting or going to and from a hunting area or preserve, provided that the weapons are unloaded while being transported; and
- Any person while carrying out his duties in the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard of this Commonwealth or any other state.