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Know the Laws: Virginia

UPDATED November 18, 2016

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Below is information about state gun laws in Virginia.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state. To find an agency, please go to the VA Where to Find Help page to find help.

Guns and Protective Orders

back to topI have an emergency (ex parte) or preliminary order against the abuser. Can s/he have a gun?

Maybe.  Under Virginia law, it is illegal for someone to purchase or transport any firearm if there is an emergency or preliminary protective order issued against him/her due to family abuse or an act of violence, force or threat.  However, Virginia law does not prohibit an abuser who has an emergency or preliminary protective order issued against him/her due to family abuse or an act of violence, force or threat from possessing or continuing to own a firearm.*

In addition, someone with an emergency or preliminary protective order against him/her is not eligible to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun** and, if s/he already has a permit, it must be surrendered to the court that issued the order for the period that the order is in effect.*  However, s/he is allowed to have the firearm for 24 hours after being served with the order only for the purpose of selling or transferring the firearm.*** 

* Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4(A)
** Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(5)
*** Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4(B)

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back to topI have a protective order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

Under Virginia law, it is illegal for someone to purchase or transport any firearm if there is an emergency, preliminary, or final protective order issued against him/her due to:

  • family abuse;
  • an act of violence, force or threat; 
  • a protective order issued as part of a divorce;
  • an order issued due to abuse/neglect of a child;
  • or a similar restraining order as any of the above that was issued by another state.* 

An abuser with a final protective order due to family abuse cannot possess or continue to own a firearm and must turn in any firearms in his/her possession within 24 hours of being served with the order.**

In addition, someone with any of the above-mentioned protective orders against him/her is not eligible to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.  If s/he already has a permit, s/he must be surrender it to the court during the time that the order is in effect.*** 

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a final protection order against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that s/he cannot have a gun.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

* Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4(A)
** Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4(B)
*** Va. Code § 18.2-308.09(5)

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protective order?

Virginia state law specifically says that a person who has a protective order against him/her cannot buy or transport a gun (and there will be a warning on your protective order form to the abuser that states this).  Virginia state law also says that if the abuser has a concealed handgun permit, s/he must surrender it while your protective order is in effect.*  However, you may also want to ask the judge to specifically write in the terms of the order that the abuser must give up his/her firearms.  It also may be helpful if the judge: 

  • requires the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or requires the police to go to the abuser's house and get them;
  • makes it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
  • orders that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

* Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4

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back to topWhat is the penalty if the abuser has a gun while I have a protective order against him/her?

Under Virginia state law, it is illegal to purchase or transport a firearm while an emergency, preliminary, or final protective order based on family abuse or based on an act of violence, force or threat (or a similar order from another state) is in effect.  In addition, anyone with a concealed handgun permit is prohibited from carrying any concealed firearm and has to surrender his/her permit to the court while the protective order based on family abuse or based on an act of violence, force or threat (or a similar order from another state) is in effect.  Violation of either of these is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can be punished by jail time for up to one year, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.**

In addition, a new law that took effect on July 1, 2016, makes it a Class 6 felony if the abuser knowingly possesses any firearm while there is a final protective order based on family abuse in effect (or a similar order from another state) and s/he can be incarcerated for up to five years, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.  However, s/he is allowed to have the firearm for 24 hours after the order is served upon him/her only for the purpose of selling or transferring the firearm.*** 

Also, anyone who has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.***  For more information, see our Federal Gun Laws page.

* Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.1:4(A); 18.2-11(a)
** Va. Code §§ 18.2-308.1:4(B); 18.2-10(f)
*** 18 USC § 924(a)(2)

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