If you are a felon in Virginia, you can go into a gun store right now and buy thousands of rounds of ammunition.
That may sound surprising, but it’s true.
On March 9, a group of four men walked into a gun store in Danville, Va. and purchased bullets. One of those men was actually prohibited from buying a gun; he had been convicted of making a false statement on a firearm consent form. But he was still able to buy ammunition without an issue.
That’s because while it’s technically illegal for felons in Virginia to possess ammunition, there is no state or federal law requiring a background check when purchasing ammunition.
If you’re wondering why ammunition is exempt from background checks and what someone might use bullets for other than for a gun, you’re not alone.
Lori Haas, Virginia state director for The Coalition and Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, agrees. She told the Danville Register & Bee that the “only reason to purchase ammunition is to use it in a firearm. It makes no sense, if a person is prohibited from purchasing ammunition, that he or she is allowed to purchase ammunition without a background check.”
Democrats attempted to introduce a federal Ammunition Background Check Act in 2018 but were blocked by Republicans. And while 60% of Virginians support stricter gun laws, a Republican-led subcommittee in the House of Delegates voted down over a dozen gun control bills in January.
Things weren’t any better in the Virginia Senate, where the Republican-helmed Committee on Courts of Justice defeated 11 separate gun control bills. Sens. Glen Sturtevent (R-10) and Bryce Reeves (R-17), both of whom will likely face tough elections in November, are on the committee. Sturtevant voted to block all but one of the bills, while Reeves voted to defeat all of them.
Virginia, which is home to the National Rifle Association’s headquarters, has among the loosest gun laws in the United States. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the state receives a “D” grade when it comes to gun laws, with the state’s failure to regulate ammunition being among the reasons for the poor grade.
While background checks or similar ammunition control measures might be tough to implement, proponents argue that they would be an effective measure to combat gun violence and would help law enforcement solve crimes.
As for the suspect in Danville, police later found him with a Glock 45 and a magazine in his possession. He was arrested and charged with possessing a gun as a non-violent felon, carrying a concealed weapon and felonious possession of ammunition.