Sweeping Change Coming to Virginia’s Gun Laws
Virginia gun laws are some of the most generous and favorable to gun owners. However, Virginia gun laws can also be confusing. Just recently, Virginia tightened its concealed carry law, which previously allowed gun owners from other states to continue carrying their weapons concealed in the state, so long as they held a valid out-of-state permit. But Virginia is not actually strengthening its existing concealed carry laws; it is simply revoking reciprocity agreements with 25 other states.
The reason for the change
In an effort to ensure all concealed carry permits in Virginia pass the same muster, the state discovered that 25 other states that allow concealed carry actually use less stringent qualifications and guidelines to determine who would receive a permit.
According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, the legislature has “already identified who can and cannot conceal their handguns in Virginia. Those standards should apply to everyone in Virginia equally, at all times. They should not be undermined by wrongly recognizing permits from other states with more permissive standards.”
Which states are still reciprocal?
According to the same press release, there are only a handful of states that will still remain reciprocal with Virginia, and they may not be what you expect. Although Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia will remain qualified to issue permits that are accepted in Virginia, many states, including some of Virginia’s closest neighbors, will not.
Among the long list of states whose residents will no longer be allowed to use their permits in Virginia are Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. When it comes to Pennsylvania, like many others, its reciprocity agreement says that it will only allow another state’s residents to use their out-of-state permits if that state would do the same for its residents. Since Pennsylvania was on the chopping block, so to speak, Virginia residents will no longer be able to rely on their permits in Pennsylvania. It is unknown whether other states will follow suit in revising their laws to prevent Virginia permit holders from carrying in their states as well.
Opposition and debate
Virginia’s new law is not without strong opposition. The Attorney General calls it a “common sense step” to make all people inside the boundaries of the state accountable to the same set of standards, resident and visitor alike. However, the National Rifle Association (NRA) came out strongly against the legislation, calling it arbitrary and saying it “panders to the anti-gun agenda.” These arguments and more are just the beginning as the political pressure from republicans in the state legislature increases.
What this means for visitors
When traveling from one state to another, you have to be aware of minor changes in the law. The speed limit may change drastically when you cross a state line. When it comes to gun laws, however, the penalties for an innocent mistake can be devastating. And the old adage that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission certainly does not apply here either. If you plan to visit Virginia and want to bring your weapons, know the law first. The Virginia State Police provide a detailed list of disqualifiers that will keep you from getting a Virginia permit. If you do not meet these requirements, it is likely irrelevant that your home state allows you to carry.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a weapons crime or violation of Virginia concealed carry laws, contact the attorneys of Simms Showers, LLP to discuss your rights today.