One of the great things about the Constitution of the United States is the reservation of powers clause. The reservation of powers clause states that any authority not specifically reserved for the Federal Government by the Constitution remains the jurisdiction of individual states. The reservation of powers clause is why Virginia concealed carry reciprocity law is unique in Virginia.
As great as it is, however, the Constitutional provision for states rights also creates some problems, not the least of which is the multiplicity of sometimes conflicting laws between the states. What is legal in one state may be illegal in a neighboring state.
The concealed carry question is in the middle of the mix of this confusing pile of laws and regulations. This is what is known as the issue of concealed carry reciprocity. Trying to determine where you can and can’t carry your concealed weapon when traveling across the United States can be like picking your way through a minefield. You are never quite sure where to step. This is why you’ll want this guide to Virginia concealed carry reciprocity.
Where Does Virginia Stand on Concealed Carry?
The first thing to always determine is exactly the situation with concealed carry permits in any given state which you may be visiting or even just passing through. Let’s start with Virginia and take a look at how Virginia concealed carry reciprocity laws are structured.
There are hundreds if not thousands of sources of information about concealed carry on the internet. You can even buy a book that purports to have all the information you need. One huge problem with books and many websites, however, is a lack of up-to-date information. You need to know for sure that your understanding of Virginia concealed carry reciprocity is accurate and up to date. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Bad Information or No Information – Which is Worse?
I love books. My office is filled with them. Books about concealed carry reciprocity, however, are almost surely out of date when you buy them, to say nothing of when you take them off your bookshelf. Legislation and laws change constantly. As soon as a state legislature amends a law or changes a reciprocity agreement, the book is useless. This is true for Virginia concealed carry reciprocity laws or for any other state.
Many web pages suffer the same problem. No one is actively updating the information. How do you know which website to trust? There is a solution.
Go to the Source – Trust Your Research
Go directly to the source of the most current information. Most states have websites that are maintained by the authority responsible for concealed carry licensing. These government maintained and managed websites tend to be current and correct. In this case, the Virginia State Police website is the source for the best information we could find about Virginia concealed carry laws, and Virginia concealed carry reciprocity agreements in place.
Virginia Concealed Carry Reciprocity – The State of the State
A quick summary of the Commonwealth of Virginia concealed carry statute shows that:
- Permits are issued to Virginia residents by the country’s circuit court or city in which the applicant resides.
- In general, you don’t need a concealed carry permit if:
- You are in your own home or business
- You are a certified law enforcement officer
- Carrying the weapon to or from a place of purchase or repair
- While lawfully hunting
- An attorney of the commonwealth
- You are legally allowed to possess the firearm and are in your motor vehicle or other vessel and the firearm is properly secured
- If you are from out of state and hold a valid concealed carry permit in your state of residence
- The minimum age to apply for a concealed carry permit in Virginia is 21.
- You must be able to prove competence by having completed one of several approved shooting courses (Note: As of January 1, 2021, in-person training will be required)
The Commonwealth of Virginia is a shall-issue state. If you meet the minimum requirements, the issuing authority must issue a concealed carry permit. This is where Virginia concealed carry reciprocity begins to enter the picture.
Non-Resident Permits and Virginia Concealed Carry Reciprocity
Virginia is among a small number of states that will issue a concealed carry permit to a non-resident. You can complete the entire application process through the mail. A non-resident Virginia concealed carry permit is attractive to many people who live in states where getting a concealed carry permit may be difficult, expensive, or next to impossible.
However, holding a Virginia non-resident concealed carry permit does not guarantee that you can carry concealed in your home state. While Virginia may recognize your right to carry concealed, your state of residence may not have a reciprocity agreement with Virginia. More information about Virginia concealed carry reciprocity is detailed below.
The Question of Concealed Carry Reciprocity – When and Where Does it Work?
Getting a hold of a good answer on reciprocity is like trying to grab an eel. You may think you have a good grasp, but suddenly you find that your hands are empty. Dealing with fifty individual state governments where reciprocity is concerned is much like a barrel of eels. The situation is constantly changing and everything in the barrel moves and is slippery.
What is Reciprocity and Why is it Such a Problem?
Mariam-Webster defines reciprocity as:
- The quality or state of being reciprocal, i.e.. Mutual dependence, action, or influence
- A mutual exchange of privileges
A good example of this is with driver’s licenses. There is no federal law, rule, or mandate that one state must honor or recognize another state’s licenses. If states did not practice reciprocity on driver’s licenses, you would need to obtain a drivers’ license for any state in which you wished to operate a motor vehicle.
Consider the implications for our country if states did not practice reciprocity on such things as driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, contracts, etc.
The Conundrum of Concealed Carry Reciprocity
So, the situation is that while states uniformly honor each other’s licenses in some areas, in other areas, the situation is vastly different. Some of these areas surprise many people. In general, trade licenses such as plumbers and electricians are reciprocal. Most states require attorneys and doctors to hold a valid license in the state before practicing their profession.
However, there are exceptions, and reciprocity agreements define these exceptions. Each state negotiates and becomes a party to a negotiated reciprocity agreement with other states. These reciprocity agreements detail how reciprocity will work.
Who has Concealed Carry Reciprocity and Who Doesn’t?
Who does and doesn’t have reciprocity is the big question — and a significant problem. Imagine trying to track 50 states who negotiate 50 different reciprocity agreements subject to change and amendment at any time, and you begin to get an idea of the scope of this challenge. Thankfully, we are only dealing here with Virginia concealed carry reciprocity.
Back to Virginia Concealed Carry Reciprocity
Virginia concealed carry reciprocity takes a different approach to the issue of reciprocity. In July 2016, the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted legislation that makes Virginia concealed carry reciprocity a matter of law. The statute enacted grants full recognition of anyone holding another state’s concealed carry permit, with some conditions.
- The out of state concealed carry permit holder must be at least 21 years of age.
- The permit issued to the out-of-state residents must have a photo and be issued by a recognized governmental agency.
- The out of state permit holder produces the permit or license upon demand by a law enforcement officer.
- The holder of the out of state concealed carry permit has not previously had a Virginia concealed carry permit revoked.
So, What Does It All Mean?
In short, the Virginia concealed carry reciprocity law gives anyone who holds a valid concealed carry permit from any other state in the union the right to carry concealed in the Commonwealth of Virginia if they meet the requirements outlined in the Virginia law.
Sounds Great! What’s the Catch?
The problem, again, is reciprocity. Just because the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes your concealed carry permit while you are in Virginia, does not necessarily mean that your state will recognize or honor a Virginia concealed carry permit. One state cannot legislate for another state. Virginia concealed carry reciprocity laws have no bearing on the laws of another state.
There must still be a reciprocity agreement in place between Virginia and another state to protect the rights of Virginia concealed carry permit holders. A lack of reciprocity is why the concept of holding a non-resident Virginia concealed carry permit can get an out-of-state holder in deep legal water. Virginia concealed carry reciprocity may be enshrined in Virginia law, but the opposite may hold true in another state.
The Pitfalls of Non-Resident Licenses
Say you get Virginia’s application packet, jump through the hoops, get all the required signatures, photos, fingerprints, and pay the fees. You may even read up on and understand Virginia concealed carry reciprocity law. In a few weeks, you get your Virginia Non-Resident Concealed Carry Permit in the mail. You’re all set, right?
WRONG. In fact, you could be setting yourself up for a dangerous situation. How?
With your new Virginia non-resident concealed carry permit in your wallet, you tuck your favorite pistol into the holster in your waistband and head out to the grocery store. You inadvertently reach up to the top shelf at the store to get a can of beans, and someone spots your concealed carry pistol and puts in a call to the local police.
You are then approached by two law enforcement officers who ask if you are carrying a concealed weapon, and if you have a permit. You smile, answer in the affirmative, and proudly hand them your Virginia non-resident concealed carry permit.
Seconds later, you find yourself in handcuffs being perp-walked out of the market while everyone watches. Even if you know Virginia concealed carry reciprocity law, what you failed to do was check the reciprocity of your state with Virginia. Lo and behold, your state does not have a reciprocity agreement with Virginia, or else it only recognizes resident permits from Virginia and does not recognize non-resident permits.
The Understated Reciprocity Requirements
If you conceal carry and travel, the understated requirements of meeting the legal tests lie squarely on your shoulders. It is your responsibility as a licensed or permitted concealed carry holder to know and understand all the laws and requirements to legally conceal carry in every state through which you will travel.
Don’t rely on out-of-date books or questionable web resources. Find the most reliable source of information in each state you intend to visit and school yourself thoroughly on each state’s laws and statutes. Be responsible and save yourself the embarrassment, legal issues, and financial chaos resulting from a misinterpretation or bad information about reciprocity and concealed carry.