RICHMOND, FEB. 23 -- The Virginia General Assembly gave final passage today to a bill that will make the state the first in the nation to conduct an instantaneous criminal background check on buyers of most handguns and assault weapons. "Virginia has made history today," said Sarah Brady, wife of former White House press secretary James S. Brady and a recent witness in behalf of the measure. "I'm so proud my home state has taken the first step in the nation to stop the free flow of killing machines . . . ." The proposal, which Gov. Gerald L. Baliles said he will sign into law, does not ban any weapons or impose a waiting period, but it will require sellers to determine that buyers do not have a felony record before the gun can be sold, a process that could take up to 10 days for out-of-state residents. For Virginia residents, the check would be instantaneous. Gun dealers could dial a toll-free number connecting them with state police, and, similar to credit cards checks made by merchants, they would be told whether the applicant has a criminal record. "This provides comfort that Virginia will not be a haven for criminals to come by and then go on their way to commit crimes," said Del. Glenn R. Croshaw (D-Virginia Beach), making reference to repeated complaints that Virginia, along with Texas and Florida, is a major exporter of Saturday night specials and paramilitary weapons. The bill sailed through the House of Delegates today by a vote of 81 to 15 and then was ratified 33 to 6 in the Senate, where the original legislation had been proposed by Sen. Moody E. Stallings Jr. (D-Virginia Beach). In dramatic testimony during earlier committee hearings on the bill, Stallings, an ex-marine, waved an AK-47 he had just purchased without any background check, and told his colleagues, "I know what these things can do. I was shot by one in Vietnam." The law that will go into effect Nov. 1 requires a criminal background check of would-be buyers of handguns or pistols with a barrel length of less than five inches, and of semiautomatic weapons that fire more than 20 rounds of ammunition or can be equipped with a silencer, bayonet, tripod, flash suppressor or folding stock. Those specifications, according to Stallings, "will catch nearly all the Saturday night special {handguns} and the paramilitary assault weapons," such as the AK-47. Today's vote reflected bipartisan support from urban and suburban lawmakers, including all 29 House members from Northern Virginia. The six negative votes in the Senate were cast by rural legislators (four Republicans and two Democrats), as were 14 of the 15 "nays" in the House (eight Republicans, six Democrats and an independent). Among the Republican opponents was Del. Raymond R. (Andy) Guest Jr., of Front Royal, who is one of four men seeking his party's nomination for governor. The bill enjoyed the support of an unusual coalition, including the state police, the lobbyist group Handgun Control Inc., gun dealers and even, with some reservations, the National Rifle Association. "It's almost unbelievable," Stallings said of today's action by a legislature that historically has rejected any attempt to regulate guns. Stallings, a second-year legislator and trial lawyer, said, "I thought I might get away with it {because} I don't fit the mold of the liberal, antigun" crowd. Had the same bill been introduced by one of the chamber's more liberal members, "it wouldn't have gotten the support" of conservative senators, Stallings said. Stallings said he even hesitated before accepting Brady's offer to testify on behalf of the measure. Brady, who is vice chairman of Handgun Control and whose husband was shot in 1981 during an attempt to assassinate President Reagan, also lobbied a number of Republican legislators. The NRA, which opposed the original version of the bill, said it was satisfied with the compromise version that passed both houses. "I hope it turns out to be a trend setter for those states that, through waiting periods, deny or delay the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen," said Charles H. Cunningham, state liaison for the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA's lobbying arm. "This won't reduce violent crime in Virginia," Cunningham predicted, "because criminals will continue to get guns through illegal sources, like street sales, which already are prohibited. Criminals by definition break laws. This only will affect a very small number of crimes." The measure boosts the penalty for supplying false information from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison. -------VIRGINIA'S GUN LAW-------- Here are the details of Virginia's gun legislation, effective Nov. 1: Firearms covered Handguns or pistols with a barrel length of less than five inches (excluding antique handguns manufactured before 1899). Semiautomatic center-fire rifles or pistols manufactured with a magazine capacity of more than 20 rounds, or those designed to accommodate a silencer or bayonet, or those equipped with tripod, flash suppressor or folding stock. How it works Virginia residents purchasing a covered firearm from a registered dealer must supply birth date, sex, race, and Social Security or other identification number. Gun dealer must telephone state police computer for authorization of sale, which depends on whether applicant has felony record. If state police can't determine whether applicant has a record, transaction can be completed after the end of next business day unless police notify the dealer by then that the sale is prohibited. Within 24 hours of a sale, the dealer must mail a consent form to the state police. If it is then determined that the applicant lied on the form or a felony record was subsequently discovered, the local police will be notified. Out-of-state residents purchasing covered firearm must obtain a state police report, either from state police or through application with gun dealer, indicating they are not felons or under felony indictment anywhere in the country. State police must reply within 10 days, or the purchase can be completed. Sales between individuals, and sales to law enforcement officers, licensed firearms importers, collectors, manufacturers and dealers are exempted. Penalties Buyer convicted of making false statement on the consent form can be subject to one to 10 years' imprisonment, and fined $1,000. Confidentiality Any dealer convicted of falsely obtaining or disseminating a buyer's criminal history can be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail and fined up to $1,000. State police will not maintain records for more than 30 days on an applicant who did not have a record. Costs Gun dealers will collect $2 for every sale that involves a telephone check and $5 for every record check of an out-of-state resident, with the money to be used to offset the cost of the record checks by state police.