Is it illegal for a minor to possess a gun in Virginia?

Handgun With BulletsVirginia Code §18.2-308.7 makes it a crime for anyone under 18 years old to “knowingly and intentionally possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm anywhere in the Commonwealth.” A minor who violates this law commits a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, there are times when a minor’s possession of a gun does not violate the law.

What the Gun Possession by Minors Law Means

The Commonwealth of Virginia must prove that someone violated Virginia Code §18.2-308.7 before that person can be convicted. Specifically, prosecutors must prove that the defendant is a juvenile who is under the age of 18 and knowingly and intentionally had one of the following, a:

  • Handgun. A handgun is defined as “any pistol or revolver or other firearm originally designed, made and intentioned to fire single or multiple projectiles by means of an explosion of a combustible material from one or more barrels when held in one hand…”
     
  • Assault firearm. The law defines an assault firearm as “any (i) semi-automatic centerfire rifle or pistol which expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense 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 or (ii) shotgun with a magazine which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered.”

Exceptions to the Gun Possession by Minors Law

The law provides four exceptions to Virginia Code §18.2-308.7, even if the minor knowingly and intentionally has one of the weapons listed above. These exceptions include when the minor is:

  • At (a) his home or on his property; (b) while in the home or property of a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian; or (c) while on the property of someone else who provided prior written permission that the minor has with them and the minor also has the prior permission of their parent or legal guardian.
     
  • Accompanied by an adult and is at, or going to and from, a lawful shooting range or firearms educational class, as long as the weapons are unloaded during transport.
     
  • Engaged in lawful hunting or going to and from a hunting area, as long as the weapons are unloaded during transport.
     
  • Carrying out duties in the Armed Forces of the United States or the National Guard of Virginia or any other state.

A Criminal Defense Lawyer May Help Protect Your Child’s Future

A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a potential sentence of up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail time. Additionally, a criminal conviction may impact your child’s future educational and work opportunities. Accordingly, you want to do everything you can to ensure that your child is treated fairly after being charged with possession of a handgun or assault firearm.

Contact our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers today to learn more about your child’s rights and possible defense.