I received a call from a potential client last week who was confused about the recent change to Virginia law regarding black powder firearms.
The conversation went something like this:
Client: “I heard that even if you can’t legally own firearms, you can now hunt with black powder rifles. Is that right?”
Me: “There was a change that went into effect on July 1st of this year but it’s quite a bit more complex than that. It depends upon the nature of your felony offenses and exactly what type of black powder firearm you want to use. I have an article on my website that goes into more detail about the specifics.”
Client: “I saw that but it didn’t help me with my question. I don’t have any felonies. In my case I was involuntarily committed for treatment of depression over a decade ago. I would really like to be able to hunt again with firearms. Does this change do anything for me?”
Unfortunately for this potential client, the answer I had to give him was a resounding ‘No‘. The recent change to state law only allows those whose prohibition is based on certain felonies to purchase, possess, transport, and use certain black powder firearms. For more details on that scenario I would encourage you to read the original article which is linked above.
But for those prohibited from owning firearms because they have been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity (§ 18.2-308.1:1), adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated (§ 18.2-308.1:2), or involuntarily admitted or ordered to outpatient treatment (§ 18.2-308.1:3) there has been no equivalent change.
Under Virginia case law (see Armstrong v. Commonwealth, 549 S.E.2d 641), a firearm is any device that is made to expel a projectile by the combustion of gunpowder or other explosive. Black powder firearms clearly meet this definition and therefore remain barred to those whose prohibition is based upon mental health issues.