2A Heroes: Virginia AG Clarifies CHP Renewal Confusion

by Vern Evans
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares/Shutterstock Photo

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The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) sent out a news alert the other day reporting that the state’s Attorney General Jason Miyares had just released an important formal opinion dealing with CHP renewals.

It appears since changes in the process took place in 2020, in which “in person” language was added to the statute, some judges in Virginia were misreading the law and misconstruing it to believe it now required a person renewing a concealed handgun permit (CHP) had to provide proof, again, that they had “in-person” training in order to get their permit renewed.

This was a very New Jersey-like headache for many people, who had already proven their competency by meeting the requirements during their first application and possibly no longer had their original training certificate (which as VCDL pointed out, for some could have been decades ago), couldn’t find it or the certificate didn’t specify whether it was an in-person class or not. This interpretation by some judges had the potential to force some applicants to either be rejected during the renewal process or force them to again, take the time to sit in and also pay for in-class training that may have been redundant so they could simply provide proof of something they had already done.

In his official advisory opinion as AG to Wise County Clerk of Court Dezarah Hall, who requested the clarification for benefit to all Virginia judges and courts, Attorney General Miyares clarified the issue citing in the law that there is no requirement to show previous in-person when renewing a CHP.

“(Virginia Code) § 18.2-308.02(8) further provides that ‘no applicant shall be required to submit to any additional demonstration of competence, nor shall any proof of demonstrated competence expire[.]’ Accordingly, once competence has been demonstrated via any of the specified ways, an applicant need not offer any additional proof,” Miyares wrote in his opinion. “Reading § 18.2-308.02(8) as a whole and applying standard rules of grammar, I conclude that an applicant with an existing permit need not provide proof of in-person firearms training to successfully renew a permit; an existing permit standing alone is sufficient proof of having demonstrated ‘competence with a handgun in person.’ The 2020 amendments thus did not operate to require any additional proof showing that an applicant has attended in-person firearms training in order to renew a permit.”

Here is the link to the full opinion.

“While it would be wonderful if Virginia would follow the national trend and become a ‘constitutional carry’ state, this clarification from the Attorney General is a helpful step, in that it should remove a burden certain judges have been imposing on those renewing a CHP,” says Gilbert Ambler, Esq., a criminal defense attorney who specializes in self-defense cases with Ambler Law Offices, LLC in Winchester, Va. Ambler also serves on the board for VCDL and is an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield.

As part of a new CHP application, Ambler shared the part of state law that specifies what satisfies the training portion for applying:

The statute is 18.2-308.02, and the relevant portion follows:

  1. The court shall require proof that the applicant has demonstrated competence with a handgun in person and the applicant may demonstrate such competence by one of the following, but no applicant shall be required to submit to any additional demonstration of competence, nor shall any proof of demonstrated competence expire:

  2. Completing any hunter education or hunter safety course approved by the Department of Wildlife Resources or a similar agency of another state;

  3. Completing any National Rifle Association or United States Concealed Carry Association firearms safety or training course;

  4. Completing any firearms safety or training course or class available to the general public offered by a law-enforcement agency, institution of higher education, or private or public institution or organization or firearms training school utilizing instructors certified by the National Rifle Association, the United States Concealed Carry Association, or the Department of Criminal Justice Services;

  5. Completing any law-enforcement firearms safety or training course or class offered for security guards, investigators, special deputies, or any division or subdivision of law enforcement or security enforcement;

  6. Presenting evidence of equivalent experience with a firearm through participation in organized shooting competition or current military service or proof of an honorable discharge from any branch of the armed services;

  7. Obtaining or previously having held a license to carry a firearm in the Commonwealth or a locality thereof, unless such license has been revoked for cause;

  8. Completing any in-person firearms training or safety course or class conducted by a state-certified, National Rifle Association-certified, or United States Concealed Carry Association-certified firearms instructor;

  9. Completing any governmental police agency firearms training course and qualifying to carry a firearm in the course of normal police duties; or

  10. Completing any other firearms training that the court deems adequate.

A photocopy of a certificate of completion of any of the courses or classes; an affidavit from the instructor, school, club, organization, or group that conducted or taught such course or class attesting to the completion of the course or class by the applicant; or a copy of any document that shows completion of the course or class or evidences participation in firearms competition shall constitute evidence of qualification under this subsection.

With many state attorney generals, governors and legislators seemingly bent on making gun ownership more difficult for honest citizens, it’s great to spotlight an official striving to support American’s Second Amendment rights through fair interpretation of the law.

(Author’s Note: On a side note to this story, I wanted to give some credit to the Virginia Beach Circuit Court and the city’s Circuit Court Clerk Tina Sinnen (and her staff) in their processing of CHP renewals. I was writing a story on concealed carry in early March when it hit me: my CHP expired soon and I needed to go apply for my renewal. Not remember exactly when my then-current permit expired, I checked the date and discovered it expired toward the end of March. I didn’t have much time; a foolish mistake on my part. It was March 5 when I applied for my renewal. I did so, but the website clearly stated it could take up to 45 days to process my request. Forty-five days put me well into mid-April, which meant I would not be able to legally carry concealed for potentially several weeks, which is less than optimal for a lot of obvious reasons to this audience. Within just 10 days of submitting my application [not business days, but actual calendar days] I was notified by email my application had been approved. Two days later, my new card arrived in the mail. I didn’t have any lapse. In a world where many government services seem to take forever to get fulfilled, or where some officials stonewall, simply because they can, I was very impressed with the speed and professionalism with which the court handled the renewal process. I thank the court and Clerk Sinnen.

I also offer this as a reminder to everyone who carries with a permit out there to make sure they mark the date of their current card’s expiration and ensure they renew on time so they don’t get themselves in a potential legal pickle. Of course, if you live in one of the 29 Consitutional Carry states, then you have a little more freedom in that respect. As Gilbert Ambler noted, Virginia isn’t quite there yet.)

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Read the full article here

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