Gun stores — usually busy at Christmas and always during tumultuous times — are squeezing in a different category of customer this year: Folks on either end of a private deal. For the first Yuletide ever, a new law makes it illegal for Virginians to sell their personally owned firearms without buyers clearing the kind of background checks that can only be handled by federally licensed dealers. Gifts — the genuine kind with zero money, goods or services swapped — are exempt. Otherwise, both parties must enlist a dealer for a criminal history check run through the Virginia State Police, with the state capping the dealer’s service fee at $15. There’s no shortage of grumbling in the new line at Bob’s Gun Shop in Norfolk, but “people are complying because that’s what law-abiding people do,” said owner Robert Marcus. “But they don’t see it addressing any crime issues.” Mandatory universal background checks, bitterly fought about for years in the commonwealth, were part of a handful of new firearms restrictions that kicked in July 1, aimed at reducing gun violence. Before that, background checks were only required with direct purchases from professional dealers. Private sellers, including regulars hawking at gun shows, weren’t obligated to verify that the people buying their guns were legally allowed to have them.
Now — while some exceptions exist — skipping the background check is a Class 1 misdemeanor for sellers and buyers, fetching a fine as high as $2,500 and even a year in jail. [full article]