The following is a video transcript.
What do you do when you inadvertently carry into a place you’re not supposed to and you’re forced to use your gun in self-defense? That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss today.
NO-GUN ZONES ENFORCED BY LAW
The first thing you need to know is that there’s a difference between “no gun” zones that are enforced by state or federal law, such as courthouses, post offices, and schools; and no gun areas that are posted by private businesses. Should you carry into a “no gun” zone that is enforced by law, you will likely be convicted for the offense.
However, should you be in a location, such as across the street from the post office, when you see someone go into the post office and begin shooting the place up, then you will have a legal concept on your side known as the doctrine of necessity. We need to know that in Virginia, the doctrine of necessity comes from common law, meaning it is not addressed by statute. It is, however, a justification defense which can excuse otherwise illegal action, so long as the individual acting is doing so in response to an imminent threat which they did not have a hand in causing.
In this example, the imminent threat of someone committing murder in an area where you could otherwise not carry your firearm excuses you rushing into that area with your weapon to stop the grave threat to the life of others.
NO-GUN ZONES ENFORCED BY PRIVATE BUSINESSES
This is different than private businesses with “no gun” signs. If you carry into a private business such as a restaurant with a “no gun” sign, then you may well be charged with a misdemeanor offense of trespassing. To actually be convicted or to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of trespassing, the government would have to prove that you had carried your firearm in that location knowing that you were not able to do so. This may be tough for the prosecution to do, unless you are told to leave and refuse to do so, or you admit that you knew you were in that location and that you were not supposed to have a gun with you. A final way the government may be able to prove this is if they can prove that you received notice through conspicuous signage, so be wary of stopping to read every sign you see posted around the entrance of private businesses, as they just might be giving you the notice that you may not carry there.
For more information about where you can legally carry your firearm and what to do when inadvertently carrying into a gun-free zone, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with an Independent Program Attorney.