Alexandria shooting: What are Virginia's gun laws?

Last Updated Jun 15, 2017 2:25 PM EDT

On a quiet Wednesday morning in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C., on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, a man used a 7.62 caliber rifle and a 9 mm handgun to shoot at members of Congress, their staffs and security officers practicing for the annual congressional baseball game, according to law enforcement sources. 

So, what gun laws does Virginia have in place that a member of the public could obtain a gun and open fire on five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana)? 

There is no indication the suspect -- 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois whom President Trump said has died from his injuries -- obtained or was carrying the gun illegally, federal law enforcement authorities said in a statement Thursday. It's still unclear where he obtained the guns, a matter federal authorities are now investigating. 

Virginia is historically a fairly gun-friendly state, and although Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration has worked to toughen gun laws, the Republican-controlled legislature has worked to keep gun laws relatively loose. 

"There are too many guns in the street," McAuliffe said in a news conference Wednesday near the shooting location. "...This is a very serious issue."

Virginia requires background checks at commercial, licensed retailers, although background check requirements are more relaxed for private sales, such as at gun shows. Firearms do not have to be registered in Virginia, according to the Virginia State Police. Virginia allows people to openly carry guns without a permit -- although concealed carry does require a permit. It's not yet known whether the suspect concealed the weapons or not. Notably, Virginia does not have a concealed carry permit reciprocity agreement with Illinois, the suspect's state of residence.

But Illinois' gun laws could also be at issue, if the suspect obtained his weapons there. That state's gun laws are much stricter. 

Illinois requires all individuals without a concealed handgun permit to obtain a 10-year firearms owner's identification card, according to the National Rifle Association (NRA). The licensing process requires a detailed background check. Illinois also imposes waiting periods between the purchase and transfer of a firearm. That waiting period is 24 hours for "long" guns and 72 hours for handguns. The state does not require gun owners to register their guns with the state, or impose restrictions on the purchase or sales of multiple firearms. The state also doesn't prevent the transfer of assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines. 

After the Wednesday morning shooting, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was in the process of tracing the weapons, which can take about 24 hours.

Note: This post has been updated to reflect the exact types of guns used, as identified by federal authorities Thursday.

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.