Virginia

Updated as of Friday, July 12, 2013.

STATE CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION

“That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

Article 1, Section 13.

Important/Relevant Gun Laws

RIFLES AND SHOTGUNSHANDGUNS
Permit to PurchaseNoNo
Registration of FirearmsNoNo
Licensing of OwnersNoNo
Permit to CarryNoYes

The list and map below are included as a tool to assist you in validating your information.  We have made every effort to report the information correctly, however reciprocity and recognition agreements are subject to frequent change.  The information is not intended as legal advice or a restatement of law and does not include:  restrictions that may be placed on non-resident permits, individuals under the age of 21, qualifying permit classes, and/or any other factor which may limit reciprocity and/or recognition.  For any particular situation, a licensed local attorney must be consulted for an accurate interpretation.  YOU MUST ABIDE WITH ALL LAWS: STATE, FEDERAL AND LOCAL.

Reciprocity

  • These states recognize Virginia permits:
  • Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin (non-resident permits only), Wyoming
  • Virginia recognizes permits from:
  • Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming

Map of states recognizing Virginia permits:

A synopsis of Virginia state laws on purchase, possession and carrying of firearms.

PURCHASE AND POSSESSION

No state permit is required to otherwise purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun. Virginia residents may purchase firearms from any licensed Federal Firearms Licensee, even if they are out of state. A criminal history record information check is required prior to purchasing any firearm, except for an antique or its replica. A fee of $2.00 will be collected for such a check. For non-residents it is $5.00. READ ALL

If any buyer or transferee is denied the right to purchase a firearm, he may exercise his right of access to and review of the criminal history record information, provided such action is initiated within thirty days of the denial. A licensed firearm dealer shall not deliver a rifle or shotgun to a non-resident until an approval report is received from the state police or 10 days have gone by, whichever comes first. 

It is a crime for any person to sell, give or otherwise furnish a handgun to a minor if he has reason to believe that the buyer or recipient is under 18 years of age, unless such transfer is made between family members or for the purpose of engaging in a sporting event or activity. A person under 18 shall not possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm.1

This prohibition does not apply to a minor in his own home or on his property or on the property of another with prior permission, while accompanied by an adult while hunting, at a range or firearm educational class, and while transporting an unloaded firearm to and from such activities.

It is unlawful for a person convicted of a felony, or any person under 29 with a juvenile adjudication, as a 14-year-old or older, which would be a felony if committed by an adult, or a person acquitted by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution, to possess or transport a firearm. It is unlawful for any person who is subject to a protective order issued pursuant to family abuse or stalking to purchase or transport any firearm while the order is in effect. It is unlawful for anyone adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated or involuntarily committed to purchase, possess or transport a firearm. It is unlawful to transfer a firearm to such persons.

It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to authorize a child under the age of twelve to use a firearm except when the child is under the supervision of an adult.

It is unlawful to possess, sell, transfer, or import any semi-automatic folding stock shotgun with a spring tension drum magazine capable of holding 12 rounds.

A non-citizen or alien not admitted for permanent residence shall not possess or transport an assault firearm, and a gun dealer shall not transfer it to such person. Most shotguns are not included in the term assault firearm.

When a member of the armed services wishes to purchase a firearm, for the purposes of the establishment of residency for firearm purchase, residency of a member of the armed forces shall include both the state in which the member's permanent duty post is located and any nearby state in which the member resides and from which he commutes to the permanent duty post.

When the photo-identification presented to a dealer by the prospective purchaser is a driver's license or other photo-identification issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and such identification form contains a date of issue, the dealer shall not, except for a renewed driver's license or other photo-identification issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, sell or otherwise transfer a firearm to the prospective purchaser until 30 days after the date of issue of an original or duplicate driver's license unless the prospective purchaser also presents a copy of his Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles driver's record showing that the original date of issue of the driver's license was more than 30 days prior to the attempted purchase.

Virginia law now provides a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year in jail for any person convicted of a "straw purchase," which is the purchase of a firearm with the intent to deliver it to an ineligible person.  If more than one firearm is involved in a "straw purchase," the minimum sentence increases to 5 years in prison.  This law does not apply to the lawful use, possession or transport by a child when the purchaser is the parent, grandparent or guardian of that child. 

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CARRYING

The open carrying of a handgun in Virginia is lawful. The carrying of any concealed firearm by a person about his person, hidden from common observation, is prohibited.  READ ALL

Exceptions to this prohibition include:

  • carrying in one’s place of abode or the curtilage thereof.
  • carrying a loaded handgun by persons who may lawfully possess such gun, inside an unlocked vehicle compartment or container, within reach of a driver or passenger who does not possess a concealed weapons permit. 
  • any regularly enrolled member of a target shooting organization who is at, or going to or from, an established shooting range, provided that the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported.
  • any regularly enrolled member of a weapons collection organization who is at, or going to or from, a bonafide weapons exhibition, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported.
  • any person carrying such weapons between his place of abode and a place of purchase or repair, provided the weapons are unloaded and securely wrapped while being transported.
  • any person actually engaged in lawful hunting under inclement weather conditions necessitating temporary protection of his firearm.
  • a retired law-enforcement officer who receives proof of consultation and favorable review is authorized to carry a concealed handgun in the same manner as a law-enforcement officer authorized to carry a concealed handgun.
  • any of the following retired officers with 20 years of service or more;  any State Police officer retired from the Department of State Police, any officer retired from the Division of Capitol Police, any local law-enforcement officer, any auxiliary police officer or animal control officer retired from a police department or sheriff's office within the Commonwealth, any special agent retired from the State Corporation Commission or the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, any conservation police officer retired from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and any Virginia Marine Police officer retired from the Law Enforcement Division of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.  All such persons must carry written proof of consultation with and favorable review of the need to carry a concealed handgun issued by the chief officer of the agency from which he/she resigned.

A person 21 years of age or older may apply in writing to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the county or city in which the applicant resides for a permit to carry a concealed handgun.  A member of the united states armed forces may apply to the city or county of which they are domiciled. The application shall be made under oath, before a notary or other person qualified to take oaths, and shall be made on a form prescribed by the Supreme Court, requiring only that information necessary to determine eligibility for the permit. No information or documentation other than that which is allowed on the application in accordance with law may be requested or required by the clerk or the court. State law now allows for delivery of the application to the court via U.S. Mail.

A clerk of court shall withhold from public disclosure, the applicant's name and any other information, contained in a permit application, or any order issuing a concealed handgun permit, except that such information shall not be withheld from any law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his official duties.   The fee shall not exceed $50. The court shall issue the permit within 45 days of receipt of the completed application unless it appears that the applicant is disqualified. A court may authorize the clerk to issue concealed handgun permits, without judicial review, to applicants who have submitted complete applications, for whom the criminal history records check does not indicate a disqualification and, after consulting with either the sheriff or police department of the county or city, about which there are no outstanding questions or issues concerning the application.

The court clerk shall be immune from suit arising from any acts or omissions relating to the issuance of concealed handgun permits without judicial review unless the clerk was grossly negligent or engaged in willful misconduct. This shall not be construed to limit, withdraw, or overturn any defense or immunity already existing in statutory or common law, or to affect any cause of action accruing prior to July 1, 2010. 

The copy of a concealed handgun permit application becomes a de facto permit if the court does not grant or deny the permit within a 45-day period of the receipt of the application.  If the court has not issued the permit or determined that the applicant is disqualified within 45 days of the date of receipt noted on the application, the clerk shall certify on the application that the 45-day period has expired, and mail or send via electronic mail a copy of the certified application to the applicant within five business days of the expiration of the 45-day period.  Once the court grants or denies the application, the person either surrenders the de facto permit to the court or the person will be issued a concealed handgun permit. 

A disqualified person includes:

  • one who is ineligible to purchase, transport, or possess a firearm;
  • a person who it is alleged, in a sworn written statement submitted to the court, that in the opinion of such sheriff, chief of police or attorney for the Commonwealth, is likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligently to endanger others based upon personal knowledge or upon the sworn written statement of a competent person having personal knowledge;
  • a habitual drunkard or an addict or unlawful user of a controlled substance;
  • an individual that has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces;
  • an illegal alien; 
  • a person who, in the preceding three years, has been convicted of drunkenness or a violent misdemeanor; or
  • a person who within the preceding 5 years was involuntarily committed.

The court may require proof that the applicant has demonstrated competence with a handgun. Proof includes;

  • completion of a firearm training course offered by the NRA, the state, or a school;
  • participation in an organized shooting competition or military service, or any governmental police agency firearms course; or
  • previously having held a firearm carrying license. 

The permit shall contain the name, address, date of birth, gender, height, weight, color of hair, eyes, and signature of the permittee and judge issuing the permit, and the date it was issued.  Permits shall be valid for 5 years.  Persons who previously have been issued a concealed handgun permit shall not be required to appear in person to apply for a new five-year permit and the application for the new permit may be submitted via the United States mail. 

The clerk of a circuit court that issued a valid concealed handgun permit shall, upon presentation of the valid permit and proof of a new address of residence by the permit holder, issue a replacement permit specifying the permit holder's new address. The clerk and the State Police may charge combined fees of up to $10 for the replacement permit.

The person issued the permit shall have such permit on his person at all times when he is carrying a concealed handgun and must display the permit and proper photo identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer.

The specific reasons for a denial shall be stated in the order of the court.  Upon denial of the application, the clerk shall provide the person with notice, in writing, of his right to an oral hearing.  Upon request of the applicant made within 21 days, the court shall place the matter on the docket for an oral hearing.  The applicant may be represented by counsel, but counsel shall not be appointed, and the rules of evidence shall apply. The final order of the court shall include the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. 

Any person denied a permit may present a petition for review to the Court of Appeals. The petition for review shall be filed within sixty days of the expiration of the time for requesting a hearing, or if a hearing is requested, within sixty days of the entry of the final order of the circuit court following the hearing. If the decision to deny the permit is reversed upon appeal, taxable costs incurred by the person shall be paid by the Commonwealth.

It is unlawful to carry any firearm at any time in any elementary, junior high, or high school, or on such school property or discharge a firearm on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school property, except as part of the curriculum or other school-sponsored program of any organization permitted by the school. Firearms may be possessed in a vehicle if unloaded and locked in a closed container or vehicle trunk.

Any person with a concealed handgun permit may carry a concealed handgun onto school property while in a vehicle to drop off or pick up a child, only if the permit holder remains in the vehicle with the handgun completely concealed.

No person who carries a concealed handgun onto the premises of any restaurant or club for which a license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption has been granted by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, may consume an alcoholic beverage while on the premises.

It is unlawful to carry any firearm without good and sufficient reason to a place of worship while a religious meeting is being held.

A valid concealed handgun permit or license issued by another state shall be valid in the Commonwealth if the person is at least 21 years of age, the issuing state can provide verification and that states law are adequate to prevent issuance of a permit by persons who would be prohibited in Virginia.  The Superintendent of State Police, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, may also enter into agreements for reciprocal recognition with any state qualifying for recognition under Virginia law.

A non-resident 21 years of age or older may obtain a non-resident license by applying to the Virginia State Police, successfully meeting the requirements for resident applications and by submitting fingerprints. 

The clerk of a circuit court that issued a valid concealed handgun permit shall, upon submission of a notarized statement by the permit holder that the permit was lost or destroyed, issue a replacement permit.  The replacement permit shall have the same expiration date as the permit that was lost or destroyed.  The clerk shall issue the replacement permit within 10 business days of receiving the notarized statement, and may charge a fee not to exceed $5.00. 

Any licensee who does not have the permit on his/her person at the time of questioning by law enforcement, may ask a court to waives the $25 penalty if the permittee can display a valid license.

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ANTIQUES AND REPLICAS

Antique firearm means any firearm manufactured in or before 1898 and any replica of such a firearm if such a replica is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional center-fire ammunition or uses rimfire or conventional center-fire ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the U.S. and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. This exception applies only to sales by federally licensed gun dealers. The restrictions on concealed carrying and possession by prohibited persons otherwise apply.

MACHINE GUNS

A machine gun is defined as a weapon that shoots or is designed to shoot, automatically without manual reloading more than one shot by a single function of the trigger. READ ALL

A resident of Virginia may own machine guns, short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, or suppressors if all Federal and State laws are complied with.  All machine guns in the state must be registered within 24 hours of acquisition with the Department of State Police.

Possession of a machine gun for an aggressive or offensive purpose is prohibited. 

A presumption of possession for an offensive or aggressive purpose is raised by: a failure to register;  possession by a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence;  possession elsewhere than on one’s premises owned or rented for permanent residence or business occupancy; or  when empty or loaded shells for the machine gun are found in the immediate vicinity.

This law does not prohibit or interfere with any machine gun registered with the State Police, that is  possessed for scientific purposes, or not usable as a weapon and possessed as a curiosity, ornament or keepsake or  possessed for a purpose manifestly not aggressive or offensive.

   

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“SAWED OFF” SHOTGUNS AND RIFLES

A “sawed-off” shotgun is defined as any weapon loaded or unloaded, originally designed as a shoulder weapon, utilizing a self-contained cartridge from which a number of ball shot pellets or projectiles may be fired simultaneously from a smooth or rifled bore by a single function of the firing device and which has a barrel length of less than 18 inches for smooth bore weapons and 16 inches for rifled weapons. Weapons of less than .225 caliber shall not be included. READ ALL

A “sawed-off” rifle is defined as a rifle of any caliber, loaded or unloaded, which expels a projectile by action of an explosion and is designed as a shoulder weapon with a barrel or barrels length of less than 16 inches or which has been modified to an overall length of less than 26 inches.

Possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle is unlawful except for the following purposes:

  • Possession for scientific purposes, or possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed off” rifle not usable as a firing weapon and possessed as a curiosity ornament or keepsake, or the possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle in compliance with federal law.
  • The manufacture for, and sale of, to the military or law enforcement or to penal institutions, provided that every manufacturer or dealer shall keep a register of all “sawed-off” shotguns and “sawed-off” rifles manufactured or handled by him or her. The register shall keep a full description of the person to whom delivered or from whom it was received.
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PREEMPTION

No locality shall adopt or enforce any ordinance, resolution or motion, as permitted by § 15.2-1425, and no agent of such locality shall take any administrative action, governing the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms, ammunition, READ ALL

VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-915. (2012) Control of firearms; applicability to authorities and local governmental agencies.

A. No locality shall adopt or enforce any ordinance, resolution or motion, as permitted by § 15.2-1425, and no agent of such locality shall take any administrative action, governing the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, storage or transporting of firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof other than those expressly authorized by statute. For purposes of this section, a statute that does not refer to firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof, shall not be construed to provide express authorization.

Nothing in this section shall prohibit a locality from adopting workplace rules relating to terms and conditions of employment of the workforce. However, no locality shall adopt any workplace rule, other than for the purposes of a community services board or behavioral health authority as defined in § 37.2-100, that prevents an employee of that locality from storing at that locality's workplace a lawfully possessed firearm and ammunition in a locked private motor vehicle. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a law-enforcement officer, as defined in § 9.1-101, from acting within the scope of his duties.

The provisions of this section applicable to a locality shall also apply to any authority or to a local governmental entity, including a department or agency, but not including any local or regional jail, juvenile detention facility, or state-governed entity, department, or agency.

B. Any local ordinance, resolution or motion adopted prior to the effective date of this act governing the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying or transporting of firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof, other than those expressly authorized by statute, is invalid.

C. In addition to any other relief provided, the court may award reasonable attorney fees, expenses, and court costs to any person, group, or entity that prevails in an action challenging (i) an ordinance, resolution, or motion as being in conflict with this section or (ii) an administrative action taken in bad faith as being in conflict with this section.

D. For purposes of this section, "workplace" means "workplace of the locality."

VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-915.5. Disposition of firearms acquired by localities.

A. No locality or agent of such locality may participate in any program in which individuals are given a thing of value provided by another individual or other entity in exchange for surrendering a firearm to the locality or agent of such locality unless the governing body of the locality has enacted an ordinance, pursuant to § 15.2-1425, authorizing the participation of the locality or agent of such locality in such program.

B. Any ordinance enacted pursuant to this section shall require that any firearm received, except a firearm of the type defined in § 18.2-288 or 18.2-299 or a firearm the transfer for which is prohibited by federal law, shall be offered for sale by public auction or sealed bids to a person licensed as a dealer pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 921 et seq. Notice of the date, time, and place of sale shall be given by advertisement in at least two newspapers published and having general circulation in the Commonwealth, at least one of which shall have general circulation in the locality in which the property to be sold is located. At least 30 days shall elapse between publication of the notice and the auction or the date on which sealed bids will be opened. Any firearm remaining in possession of the locality or agent of the locality after attempts to sell at public auction or by sealed bids shall be disposed of in a manner the locality deems proper, which may include destruction of the firearm or, subject to any registration requirements of federal law, sale of the firearm to a licensed dealer

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Range Protection

No local ordinance regulating any noise shall subject a sports shooting range to noise control standards more stringent than those in effect at its effective date. The operation or use of a sports shooting range shall not be enjoined on the basis of noise READ ALL

VA. CODE ANN. §15.2-917 (2011)

§ 15.2-917. Applicability to local noise ordinances to certain sports shooting ranges.

A.  No local ordinance regulating any noise shall subject a sports shooting range to noise control standards more stringent than those in effect at its effective date.  The operation or use of a sports shooting range shall not be enjoined on the basis of noise, nor shall any person by subject to action for nuisance or criminal prosecution in any matter relating to noise resulting from the operation of the range, if the range is in compliance with all ordinances relating to noise in effect at the time construction or operation of the range was approved, or at the time any application was submitted for the construction of operation of the range,

B.  Any sport shooting range operating or approved for construction within the Commonwealth, which has been condemned through eminent domain proceeding by any condemning entity, and which relocates to another site within the same locality within two years of the final condemnation order, shall not be subjected to any noise control standard more stringent than those in effect at the effective date of such sport shooting range.

C.  For the purposes of this section, "sports shooting range" means an area or structure designed for the use of rifles, shotguns, pistols, silhouettes, skeet, trap, black powder, or any other similar sport shooting.

For purposes of this section "effective date" means the time of construction or operation of sports shooting range was initially approved, or at the time any application was submitted for the construction of operation of the sports shooting range, whichever is earliest.

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MISCELLANEOUS

It is unlawful to discharge a firearm in or across any road, or right-of-way, except at an approved firing range. It is unlawful to discharge any firearm in any public street or in any place of public business or public gathering, except to protect life or property, or unless otherwise authorized by law. READ ALL

During a declared state of emergency, the carry and transport of firearms cannot be limited or suspended.

An armed security officer licensed by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to carry firearms may do so at a religious school or private school if employed by that school.  The Virginia Board of Social Services may not adopt regulations that would prevent a child day care center from hiring an armed security officer.

It is a crime to maliciously discharge a firearm within an occupied building in such a manner to endanger the lives of the occupants or to maliciously shoot at or maliciously throw any missile at or against any dwelling or other occupied building whereby the lives of the occupants are placed in peril.  If the act is unlawful, but not malicious, the person shall be guilty of a lesser category of crime.  If a person willfully discharges a firearm within, or at, a school building, occupied or not, he or she shall be guilty of a felony.

It is unlawful to set a spring gun or a set gun or other firearm that is discharged by a trip wire or similar device.

It is unlawful to sell, furnish or give a toy gun (other than a cap pistol) if it can discharge a blank or ball charge by means of powder or other explosive. It is unlawful to remove, deface or alter any serial number, maker’s name or other identifying mark on any firearm.

 A mandatory penalty of 3 years for a first offense, and 5 years for a subsequent offense, is provided as a separate and consecutive felony offense for using or displaying a firearm during the commission of certain violent felonies and drug offenses. A person ineligible to possess a firearm who solicits, employs, or assists another person to purchase a firearm, or a person who purchases more than one firearm with the intent to transfer to an ineligible person, shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of 5 years.

It is unlawful to hunt with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant or narcotic drug.

A person with a concealed carry handgun permit may hunt lawfully while carrying their concealed handgun as long as they have their permit with them.

Lawful owners of firearm suppressors may use them to hunt any game or non-game animals.

No locality shall have the authority to bring suit against a firearms or ammunition marketer, manufacturer, distributor, dealer, seller, or trade association for damages, abatement, injunctive relief or any other remedy resulting from or relating to the lawful design, marketing, manufacture, distribution, sale, or transfer of firearms or ammunition to the public. The right to bring any such action is hereby reserved exclusively to the Commonwealth. Any action brought by the Commonwealth pursuant to this section shall be brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth.  This shall also apply equally to any state governmental entity, including a department, agency, or authority.

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Footnote 1

1.  “Assault firearm” means any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol which is equipped with a magazine which will hold more than twenty rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock.

SOURCES: VA. CODE ANN. §§15.2-915; 15.2-915.1; §18.2-279 through 281; §18.2-283 through 286; §18.2-288 through 293.1; §18.2-295; §18.2-299 through 303.1; §18.2-308; §18.2-308.1:1 through 308.1:5; §18.2-308.2:01; §18.2-308.2:1 and 308.2:2; §18.2-309 and 10; §18.2-311.1

CAUTION: Firearm laws are subject to frequent change and court interpretation. This summary is not intended as legal advice or restatement of law. This summary does not include federal or local laws, ordinances or regulations. For any particular situation, a licensed local attorney must be consulted for an accurate interpretation. YOU MUST ABIDE WITH ALL LAWS: STATE, FEDERAL AND LOCAL.

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