Registration and Purchase of Firearms
Virginia Firearms Transaction Program
Virginia’s approach to firearms records checks does not infringe on an individual’s ability to purchase or possess a firearm, while those individuals who are prohibited by State or Federal law are denied legal access to firearms.
The Virginia Department of State Police developed and administers the Virginia Firearms Transaction Program© (VFTP). This program became operational on November 1, 1989, and provides for a timely, point-of-sale, approval or disapproval decision regarding the sale or transfer of all firearms (except antiques) based upon the results of a criminal history record information (CHRI) check concerning the prospective purchaser pursuant to §18.2-308.2:2 of the Code of Virginia.
This program was the first of its type in the nation. Virginia was able to implement this program because the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) maintained by the Virginia State Police is one of the most complete records repositories in the nation and provides the database for the VFTP. Virginia’s program was expanded to include the requirements of the federal National Instant Background System (NICS) on November 30, 1998,
The VFTP authorizes properly licensed and registered firearms dealers to request criminal history record information (CHRI) checks on prospective purchasers via easy Internet access (VCheck) to the State Police firearms transaction system. VCheck is available between the hours of 8 AM and 10 PM, seven days a week, and including holidays, except December 25. An 800-telephone line is utilized as an alternate method of contacting the FTC should the dealer lose Internet connection or experience problems with his or her computer.
Virginia Code §18.2-308.2:3 requires a criminal history background check be performed for employees of a gun dealer to transfer firearms, whether full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary, paid or unpaid. Any person who sells firearms at a licensed dealership must submit to a national and state criminal history records check by the Department of State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Firearm sellers must complete form SP-69A and submit a completed fingerprint card to the Firearms Transaction Center. SP-69A forms and fingerprint cards may be obtained by calling the Firearms Transaction Center (FTC) Help Desk at (804) 674-2292. In lieu of submitting fingerprints, any dealer holding a valid federal firearms license (FFL) issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) may submit a sworn and notarized affidavit to the Department of State Police on form SP-69B stating that the dealer has been subjected to a record check prior to the issuance and that the FFL was issued by the ATF. The affidavit may also contain the names of any employees that have been subjected to a record check and approved by the ATF. An SP-69B form may be obtained by calling the FTC Help Desk. This exemption shall apply regardless of whether the FFL was issued in the name of the dealer or in the name of the business.
The purchaser’s name and certain personal descriptive data are immediately entered into a computer system at the dealer location or while the dealer remains on the telephone with the FTC. The design of this program eliminates traditional waiting periods by electronically accessing criminal records and “wanted” databases at the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Virginia Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) and provides an instantaneous approval or delay determination to the firearms dealer concerning the firearms sale or transfer. Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firearms purchase applications placed in a status of delay.
National and state databases are accessed simultaneously at the time of transaction. Four are maintained by the Virginia Department of State Police, accessible by the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN): Virginia’s wanted and missing persons files and protective orders, Virginia’s criminal history record files, and Virginia’s database of adjudications of legal incompetence and incapacity, involuntary commitments to mental institutions for inpatient or outpatient treatment.
The fifth database accessed during this check is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) which searches the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) consisting of the Wanted Persons File, Protection Order File, Interstate Identification Index (III), Deported Felons File, US Secret Service Protective File, Foreign Fugitive File, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ Violent Felon File, and NICS indexes: Illegal/Unlawful Aliens File, Mental Defectives/Commitments File, Dishonorable Discharges, Citizenship Renunciants, Controlled Substance Abuse File and Denied Persons File.
If an identification is not made in one or more of these files, the computer responds “APPROVED” and a unique computer-generated approval number is provided to the firearms dealer for the transaction. The firearm may be transferred upon the dealer’s receipt of the approval number. If an identification is made, the computer responds “DELAYED” and review of the information/record is required by the State Police Firearms Transaction Center to determine probable identification and lawful eligibility of the prospective firearms purchaser. The firearms dealer is notified immediately upon a final determination of eligibility.
A prospective firearms purchaser must provide written consent permitting the firearms dealer to initiate a CHRI check to determine if the purchaser is eligible to purchase or possess a firearm. It is unlawful for any person to willfully and intentionally make a false statement on the required consent form. Firearms dealers are required by law to collect a fee of $2.00 from Virginia residents for every transaction which requires a criminal history record information (CHRI) check and a fee of $5.00 from non-Virginia residents. These fees are sent to the State Police for transmittal to the General Funds of the Commonwealth to assist in the cost of conducting the record checks.
At no time is criminal history information released to the firearms dealer or any other individual contacting the Firearms Transaction Center by telephone.
Identification and Residency Requirements
A primary and secondary form of identification must be presented to the firearms dealer at the time of purchase of any firearm except an antique weapon, or replica of an antique weapon.
The primary form of ID shall consist of a valid photo-ID form issued by a governmental agency of the Commonwealth or of the prospective purchaser or transferee’s home state that denotes the individual’s name, race, sex, address, and date of birth. Where the primary form is a photo-ID issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the dealer shall not transfer a firearm to the prospective purchaser until 30-days after the date of issue of an original or duplicate driver’s license unless a copy of his/her DMV driver’s record is presented showing that the original date of issue was more than 30-days prior to the attempted purchase.
The primary form of ID for a non-Virginia resident, for the purchase of a rifle or shotgun, must consist of a valid photo-ID issued by a governmental agency of the prospective purchaser’s home state that denote the purchaser’s name, race, sex, date of birth and address. Federal law prohibits the sale or transfer of a handgun to a nonresident of the state in which the handgun is being purchased.
The secondary form of identification, for Virginia residents and residents of other states, must show an address identical to that shown on the primary form of identification. Some acceptable forms of secondary ID are:
- a current lease,
- evidence of currently paid personal property tax or real estate tax,
- a current utility or telephone bill,
- a current voter registration card,
- a current bank check,
- a current passport,
- a current automobile registration and
- current hunting or fishing license.
Transfer of an Assault Firearm
Proof of citizenship, or of lawful admission for a permanent residence, must be established prior to the purchase of an “assault firearm.” An assault firearm is defined as any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of offence with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.
One of the following forms of proof of citizenship or lawful residence, pursuant to§18.2-308.2 must be presented to purchase an assault firearm:
- a certified birth certificate or certificate of birth abroad issued by the US State Department,
- an un-expired US Passport,
- a U. S. citizen identification card,
- a current voter registration card,
- a current selective service registration card,
- an immigrant or registration card issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and
- a certificate of citizenship or a certificate of naturalization issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Active military personnel permanently stationed in Virginia, including the Pentagon, are treated as Virginia residents for the purchase of a handgun.
Identification and residency are established by the following:
A military photo-identification card issued by the United States Department of Defense and proof that Virginia is the permanent duty station via current military assignment orders is acceptable identification and residency documentation to establish military personnel as residents of Virginia.
If permanently assigned to a mobile unit in Virginia, and the homeport is listed as Virginia; the transaction may be processed as a Virginia resident the same as any other permanent military assignment to Virginia supported by military assignment orders. The individual is treated as a non-Virginia resident if the homeport is listed as any place other than Virginia.
Individuals retired from military service are subject to the same identification and residency requirements as any other person wishing to purchase a firearm; i.e., a primary and secondary form of ID.
Law Enforcement Officers
State and federal law enforcement officers must meet primary and secondary ID requirements, and must consent to a background check for the purchase of a firearm by completion of form SP-65. Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on firearms purchase applications by law enforcement personnel.
Non-Citizens of the United States
Individuals with permanent resident alien status are subject to the same identification and residency requirements as citizens.
The Federal Gun Control Act prohibits any individual “who has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa” to ship, transport, receive, or possess a firearm. This prohibition applies to “any alien in the United States in a nonimmigrant status.” There are exceptions to the nonimmigrant alien provision. A nonimmigrant alien is not prohibited from purchasing, receiving, or possessing a firearm if the alien: (1) is in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the United States; (2) is an official representative of a foreign government who is accredited to the United States Government or their Government’s mission to an international organization having its headquarters in the United States; or (3) has received a waiver from the prohibition form the Attorney General of the United States.
There is a process for nonimmigrant aliens to petition the Justice Department to waive the prohibition. Individuals should contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms if you have questions about the prohibition, its exceptions, or the waiver process.
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