Last week the Attorney General in Virginia made national headlines when he announced that on Feb 1st, 2016 Virginia will stop honoring permits from 25 states. He has been accused of using his authority to further a political agenda while hurting law abiding citizens… which is true. Because we (USA Firearm Training) have promoted the Virginia non-resident permit for some time we have had to field a large number of questions from our students and readers about the implication of these changes. The purpose of this article to to clarify those implications more completely.
The first key to understanding the changes is in knowing that any given state can only decide what other permits from other states they are going to honor. States do not have the ability to decide what other states will honor their permit. So while Virginia has the authority to decide they will be only honoring permits from 5 states instead of 30 starting in February they cannot decide what other of the 49 states are going to honor the Virginia permit moving forward.
The next key is understanding the difference between reciprocity agreements and state laws. Texas and Virginia have a formal reciprocity agreement. This is a document signed by the authorities of both states committing to honor each other's permits. On the other hand, North Carolina chooses to honor permits from all states without exception. This doesn't require that they obtain a written agreement with any state. They just honor all permits regardless.
Understanding How This Applies
So, to put this into context let me share the example of Arizona. Currently Arizona and Virginia have formal reciprocity. They honor each other's permits. Effective Feb 1st Virginia will no longer honor the Arizona permit. This means that anyone who has an Arizona permit may no longer carry concealed in Virginia. HOWEVER, Arizona will continue to honor the VA permit, making what was previously a 2-way agreement now only a 1-way agreement. So anyone with a Virginia permit may continue to carry concealed in Arizona.
Now, not all of the 25 states whose permits Virginia will cease to honor will continue to honor the Virginia permit. There are some states who require a 2-way agreement. Specifically six states whom are being dropped by Virginia will return the favor and drop Virginia. Those include Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming.
So, as of February 1st there will be 25 state permits out there that will no longer be honored in Virginia and there will be six states out there that will cease to honor the Virginia permit.
So, if you are a Virginia resident who has a Virginia concealed carry permit the number of states that will recognize your permit will be decreased by six effective February 1st. You may no longer carry in Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming with your Virginia permit.
How Does Virginia Justify the Change or Determine What States?
Obviously the decision by the state Attorney General is a political decision. In short, he decided to identify the states that have requirements at least as high as Virginia in order to obtain a permit. That includes the training requirements but also criteria relative to what would disqualify someone from applying. In total Virginia has 20 different criteria that could disqualify someone from getting their permit. They identified five other states that shared those requirements. These are the states whose permits will continue to be honored: West Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.
So if my Permit is No Longer Honored in Virginia What Do I do?
Virginia does allow open carry under some circumstances and in some places. As a organization of firearm instructors you might imagine that we generally don't recommend open carry. Your other alternative is to obtain either the Virginia non-resident permit (details below) or the Utah non-resident permit which will continue to be honored by Virginia for the time being.
What About Obtaining A Virginia Permit?
Anyone in the USA regardless of where you live may apply for the Virginia non-resident permit. You must obtain documentation from a firearm training course (can be taken anywhere including online) and mail it in along with the required documentation in order to apply. You can review our detailed guide here. Click here to learn about our online video course that qualifies.