What gun owners should know about Virginia's new firearms law

Virginia's gun laws are changing, which may affect people with protective orders or out-of-state permits.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently reported, a major package of gun control bills was recently signed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. The legislation - composed of six individual bills - is widely being described as a compromise between those who advocate for tougher gun control measures and those who are worried about protecting Virginians' constitutional gun rights. The bipartisan agreement introduces some important new elements to the state's firearms law, especially for those with out-of-state permits or who are under permanent protective orders. Understanding what changes are on the way with these new laws are important for both gun owners and sellers living in or traveling to Virginia.

The Virginia Compromise

Gun control measures are, of course, often highly controversial. While those advocating for more background checks and stricter requirements for gun ownership often cite public safety for doing so, gun rights activists worry that such measures could end up infringing on their constitutional rights. As a result, the move to introduce new firearms legislation in Virginia has been fraught with debate and controversy.

Nonetheless, lawmakers for both parties were able to come together recently to come to an agreement on new gun control measures, an agreement that has been nicknamed the 'Virginia Compromise'. While the results of that agreement continue to provoke controversy, especially among gun control advocates, its supporters nonetheless claim it is a historic piece of legislation that furthers both gun rights and gun control.

What is in the agreement?

There are three key changes being brought about by the agreement. One of the biggest changes will apply to those who are under a permanent protective order due to a domestic violence conviction. Anybody under such an order will be required to relinquish his or her firearms within 24 hours of the order being issued. As the Washington Post notes, this is a significant change from the previous law, which only prohibited those under a permanent protective order from transporting firearms or purchasing new firearms.

Another major change, brought about by HB 1163 and SB 610 in the legislative package, is that Virginia will now recognize the carry permits of almost all other states. Controversially, Virginia had stopped recognizing the carry permits of 25 other states last year over concerns that licensing requirements in those states were looser than Virginia's. With carry permits again being recognized, most people from out of state with a concealed carry permit can travel to Virginia without risking legal consequences for having an out-of-state permit.

Finally, the agreement will require a law enforcement officer to be present at gun shows in order to conduct voluntary background checks. This change will essentially make it easier and cheaper for private sellers to conduct background checks at gun shows before selling a firearm to a prospective buyer.

The six bills, all of which have been signed by the governor, are set to take effect by July 1.

Criminal defense

Anybody who has been charged with a firearms offense should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. As the above article shows, Virginia's gun laws are changing in significant ways. An attorney who understands these changes and who is experienced in firearms and weapons cases will be able to offer the clarity and advice anybody charged with a firearms offense needs.