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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > What is the Virginia Uniform Machine Gun Act?

What is the Virginia Uniform Machine Gun Act?


The Uniform Machine Gun Act regulates the possession and use of machine guns within the Commonwealth of Virginia. The following sections will provide an overview of several important components of the Uniform Machine Gun Act in Virginia.

Definition of Machine Guns

Under Code of Virginia § 18.2-288, a machine gun is any weapon that:

  • Discharges more than one round automatically;
  • Does not require a manual reload in between shots; and
  • Requires a single function of the trigger.

Registration Requirement for Machine Guns

Under Code of Virginia § 18.2-295, there is a specific registration process for machine guns. This Section requires all machine gun owners to register their weapon within 24 hours of acquisition. If the owner altered a semi-automatic weapon — thereby turning the weapon into a machine gun — then registration is required within 24 hours of alteration.

To satisfy all statutory requirements, the application for registration must be notarized and reflect the following information:

  • Make, model, and serial number of the machine gun;
  • Name, address, and occupation of the machine gun owner; and
  • Details of the acquisition or alteration of the machine gun.

Upon receiving a valid application, the Superintendent of State Police shall issue the machine gun owner a Certificate of Registration. The machine gun owner must keep a copy of this registration on hand and produce it for law enforcement upon demand.

A violation of the registration requirements constitutes a Class 3 misdemeanor in Virginia. The potential penalty for a Class 3 misdemeanor is usually a $500 fine.

Use of Machine Guns in Crimes of Violence

Under Code of Virginia § 18.2-289, it is illegal to possess or use a machine gun while committing a crime of violence. Section 18.2-289 applies to attempted crimes of violence as well.

Section 18.2-288 defines a crime of violence as:

  • Murder;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Rape;
  • Mayhem;
  • Assault with intent to maim, disable, disfigure, or kill;
  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Housebreaking;
  • Breaking and entering; or
  • Larceny.

Use of a machine gun in connection with a crime of violence constitutes a Class 2 felony in Virginia. The potential penalties for a Class 2 felony include 20 years to life in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Use of Machine Guns for an Aggressive Purpose

Under Code of Virginia § 18.2-290, it is unlawful to possess or use a machine gun for an offensive or aggressive purpose.

Code of Virginia § 18.2-291 presumes an offensive or aggressive purpose in any of the following situations:

  • A person brings the machine gun to another person’s property, home, or business;
  • A person convicted of a violent crime is in possession of the machine gun;
  • The machine gun was not registered in accordance with Section 18.2-295; or
  • The machine gun is in the immediate vicinity of compatible ammunition.

Use of a machine gun for an offensive or aggressive purpose constitutes a Class 4 felony in Virginia. The potential penalties for a Class 4 felony include up to 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about gun crimes or other criminal offenses in Virginia, it is crucial that you reach out to a dependable criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Simms Showers LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have proven experience in the field of criminal law, including gun crimes and related considerations. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.



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