Virginia concealed carry: how to carry in the Commonwealth
In late 2015, Virginia concealed carry laws were subject to an abrupt shift when the governor announced all out-of-state permits were to be no longer recognized, however that decision was soon reversed.
Things have calmed down, meaning these days carrying concealed in the Commonwealth is a matter of knowing the law and having the right permit, but there are times when even the permit isn’t necessary in order to legally carry.
How to concealed carry in Virginia without a permit
Concealed carry in Virginia will get the average gun owner in trouble when not abiding by Virginia Code Section 18.2-308. Essentially, in order to carry a firearm, a resident or nonresident concealed handgun permit is necessary.
A first offense will result in a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a second offense resulting in a Class 6 felony and a third resulting in a Class 5 felony.
With Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.012 (A) (no concealed carry while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs) as a precursor, Section 18.2-308 does not apply to those in their home and property. It does not apply to those carrying in their own place of business.
Retired law enforcement officers as outlined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.016 may carry without a permit. With the exception that guns are unloaded and secured while being transported, a handgun permit is not necessary while at, going to or returning from an established shooting range.
Anyone in a weapons collecting organization on their way to or from a weapons exhibition do not need a permit, so long as the weapons are likewise unloaded and secured while transported. Under the same transportation requirements, those traveling to or from a weapons repair or purchasing establishment do not need a permit.
Indeed, those who may legally own a firearm may carry it lawfully in a motor vehicle so long as it stored in a container and unloaded.
Those lawfully hunting in inclement weather may shield their handgun from the elements, thereby concealing it.
Attorneys and assistant attorneys of the Commonwealth may carry without a permit, and judges and justices are likewise covered under the exception.
Those on their way to, at or coming from a firearms safety training course are not required to have a permit as long as the weapon is stored during transportation.
The scenarios in this section, however, only cover a small portion of when and where a concealed handgun may be carried. In order to have a bit more freedom of mobility, apply for a concealed carry permit.
How to get ahold of a Virginia concealed carry permit
The Virginia concealed carry permit will require a bit of legwork, but nothing too cumbersome. Residents and nonresidents alike may apply.
Prior to filling out form SP-248 for the Virginia concealed handgun permit, complete a handgun competency course. Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.02, there are nine options that satisfy the course requirement.
- A hunter education or safety course approved by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or similar out-of-state agency.
- Complete an NRA firearms safety or training course.
- Complete any firearms safety or training course available for the general public through a law-enforcement agency, higher education organization or private or public firearms training school using instructors certified by the Department of Criminal Justice Services or NRA.
- Complete an law-enforcement firearms safety or training course intended for security guards, investigators, special deputies, law-enforcement officers or security enforcement.
- Present evidence of experience in organized shooting competitions, of current military service or proof of honorable discharge from the Armed Forces.
- Any previous license to carry a firearm in the Commonwealth -- a boon for renewal applicants.
- Completing any state-certified or NRA-certified firearms instructor’s course. This applies to electronic, video or online courses. Yes, an online firearms training course will satisfy the requirements of this permit.
- Completing any court-approved course.
- Anyone qualified to carry a firearm in police duties after taking a police agency firearms training course.
The applicant (who must be at least 21 years old) will fill out the appropriate application in their county of residence. Those stationed and residing in Virginia through the armed services will apply in their domiciled city or county.
The primary components are the application, a photocopy of the certified handgun competency requirement and the respective fees not to exceed $50, according to Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.03. Contact local county agencies and courts about any other particular procedures.
A five-year permit will be granted within 45 days unless the applicant is disqualified. Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.09, there are 20 criteria that will bar an applicant from obtaining a permit. Review those disqualifications prior to applying.
Renewing a permit is fairly easy. All the same fees and time constraints apply. The renewal permit may be mailed in. The former permit will satisfy the training requirement. And, the renewal application may be submitted at least 90 days prior to expiration and up to 180 days afterward. Those in the Armed Forces or the Virginia National Guard whose Virginia concealed handgun permit expired during active-duty military deployment outside their respective city or county will have their permit considered valid up to 90 days after the end date of the deployment.
There is a state-issued nonresident handgun permit application checklist, but here’s the summary:
- Complete, sign and notarize the application SP-248
- Make a $100 money order or cashier’s check payable to the Virginia State Police.
- Include a photograph.
- Complete a fingerprint card (FD-258). It must be signed by the applicant and their respective law enforcement individual taking prints. It must have the law enforcement individual’s telephone number for authenticity. An agency stamp is requested, but not required.
- Provide certified documentation of a firearms competency course.
- Throw in a valid photocopy of a photo-ID issued by a government agency.
- Include a return address.
- Send all of the materials in one package to…
Firearms Transaction Center
Nonresident Concealed Handgun Permits
Criminal Justice Information Services Division
Department of State Police
P.O. Box 85141
Richmond, VA 23285-5141
It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive guide to concealed carry in Virginia, but rather an educational stepping stone toward understanding how to get started. That being said, this is not formal legal advice and there may or may not be more steps to the overarching procedure.
Knowing when one can carry legally and who may carry is only part of the topic at hand. There are concerns about location and traveling with firearms.
Virginia concealed carry reciprocity and location prohibitions
Consider all the relevant Virginia concealed carry reciprocity agreements. Those traveling to Virginia with a valid permit issued in their respective state have nothing to worry about.
Virginia passed a new law that recognizes all states’ issued permits. That, however, does not mean that those with a Virginia permit may in turn travel anywhere they so choose with their own firearms and permit.
In total, 34 states recognize a Virginia permit. Of those, six will only recognize a Virginia resident permit and one will only recognize the nonresident permit.
These are subject to change. Laws are fickle. Regularly stay informed with a CCW map.
Within the state itself, firearms may be prohibited by the owner of private property and where posted. Firearms are a no-go in places of worship used for religious purposes, as outlined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-283. Courthouses are similarly off limits. Firearms are forbidden on school property, save for those with a valid concealed handgun permit and only if they’re in a motor vehicle near or on school property, according to Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.1.
Similarly, do not bring a CCW onto an air carrier airport terminal.
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About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.