The following is a video transcript.
What are some common mistakes gun owners make in Virginia?
Easily, the biggest mistake to talk about is brandishing. We receive calls every week from people who have been charged with brandishing. The first thing they always say is something along the lines of, “I don’t understand, I didn’t even point the gun at them.” This puts me in a position where I must be the bearer of bad news. In Virginia, a gun does not have to be actually pointed at someone to support a brandishing charge. Simply holding a gun in a manner intended to cause fear in the mind of another is all that is needed to support a brandishing conviction, absent of a lawful defense, such as self-defense.
This is not to say if you’re threatened you should not prepare yourself by accessing your firearm. However, you need to keep in mind that if you do so, and there is no lawful justification, you can and likely will be charged with brandishing. In Virginia, brandishing is a class one misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Use of Deadly Force in the Home
A second major mistake that I often hear Virginia gun owners making is the perception that just because someone is in their home, they can use deadly force against them. Virginia does not have a codified “Castle Doctrine.” The legislature has never written a law saying just because someone is in your house, you can kill them.
If this was the case, we would be extremely careful on whose homes we visited, right? If someone is in your home, in Virginia, you can use deadly force against them, if you meet the same standards you must meet outside the home. This means you can use deadly force against them, if you were not the initial aggressor, and you reasonably believe deadly force is immediately necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury. You cannot use deadly force against someone in your home just because they are taking your beloved china set. Don’t assume just because someone is in your home, in Virginia, you can use deadly force against them, and certainly do not use deadly force solely in defense of property.
Carrying in a Car Without a Concealed Handgun Permit
A final mistake made by Virginia gun owners is carrying a loaded firearm in the wrong places of a vehicle, without a valid Concealed Handgun Permit. While you may carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle in Virginia, without a valid Concealed Handgun Permit, you must be careful of where the weapon is stored. In Virginia, if you do not have a Concealed Handgun Permit, the loaded weapon may be in a latched center console, glove box, or other secured container. This is different than many other states.
In Virginia, without a valid Concealed Handgun Permit, you may not have a loaded weapon in a vehicle, on your person, or outside a secure and latched container. This means, when openly carrying a firearm in Virginia, without a Concealed Handgun Permit, you may not get into your vehicle with the weapon still on your person. You must take care to secure the firearm in a latched container, or in the latched glove box, or center console.
For any other questions regarding gun law and common mistakes in Virginia, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.