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Ask a Deputy: Open Carry Firearms

A readers asks about Virginia's laws on carrying a weapon in public.

Got a question you've always wanted to ask someone in law enforcement? Trying asking a member of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office through Ask a Deputy. Readers submit questions and the LCSO responds. Send questions to dusty@patch.com or submit them below.

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Q: My best friend, retired military from the Florida Panhandle is coming to visit here in Virginia. He openly carries a side arm in Florida. He’s asking is that lawful in Virginia, not concealed. He has a permit. Can you help please?

Thanks,
John C.


A: Thank you for the question John. In general, one may openly carry a sidearm in plain sight in Virginia. The restrictions to openly carrying are divided into two broad categories, locations where you may not carry and persons who are not permitted to possess and/or transport a firearm. Locations where firearms may not be carried include:

  • Federal facilities
  • Federal agency lands
  • National Forests except where hunting is permitted
  • General Assembly buildings
  • Hog Island Wildlife Management Area
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • George Mason University
  • Courthouses
  • Detention Facilities
  • K-12 school grounds
  • K-12 school buses
  • Property used exclusively for K-12 school sponsored functions
  • Air carrier airport terminals
  • Places of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held without good and sufficient reason

Additionally in Loudoun County, one may not carry in public areas a loaded firearm that meets one of the following conditions (with exceptions):

  1. A semi-automatic rifle or pistol with a loaded, inserted magazine capable of holding more than 20 rounds of ammunition
  2. A semi-automatic rifle or pistol designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer
  3. A semi-automatic rifle or pistol equipped with a folding stock
  4. A shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than 7 rounds of ammunition

Persons not permitted to possess and/or transport firearms under §18.2-308 include:

  • Persons acquitted by reason of insanity of any felony or Class I or II misdemeanor
  • Persons adjudicated incompetent or mentally incapacitated
  • Persons involuntarily committed or ordered to outpatient treatment
  • Persons subject to a protective order
  • Persons convicted of certain drug offenses
  • Convicted felons
  • While possessing certain controlled substances
Philip Van Cleave July 16, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Two comments: 1. The Loudoun restrictions on loaded firearms do NOT apply to rimfire guns and permit holders are exempted from it altogether. 2. John C. needs to tell his friend from Florida to be careful there as they are one of the few states that don't allow open carry, except to/from/while fishing.
Dusty Smith (Editor) July 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Thanks for the info, Philip.
Tim July 16, 2012 at 04:31 PM
How can Loudoun have stricter laws? Thought Virginia passed a preemption law?
Philip Van Cleave July 16, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Localities can have certain gun laws IF the General Assembly gives them permission to do so. However, the restrictions above are actually state law that applies to localities with populations over a certain threshold. Here is the state law. § 18.2-287.4. Carrying loaded firearms in public areas prohibited; penalty. It shall be unlawful for any person to carry a loaded (a) semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock or (b) shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered on or about his person on any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or in any public park or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public in the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, or Virginia Beach or in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William. The provisions of this section shall not apply to law-enforcement officers, licensed security guards, military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, or any person having a valid concealed handgun permit...
MIke July 16, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I open carry in Loudoun everywhere I travel. Never had a problem, and quite a few folks have thanked my for carrying, and exercising my 2nd Amendment right. Virginia as a whole is a gold star state for Open carry, and its quite common here. I find it absurd that you can only open carry in Florida while fishing.... and get this Texas ONLY has concealed carry! Its awesome that we have more rights / better gun laws than Texas! :)
TPKeller July 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion in April 2011 stating that the self-defensive carry of a firearm does meet the "good and sufficient reason" requirement of the law for carrying in a church. As long as you are otherwise legally allowed to carry a firearm, either openly, or concealed with a permit, carrying in a church is perfectly fine. See the AG opinion here: http://www.oag.state.va.us/Opinions%20and%20Legal%20Resources/Opinions/2011opns/11-043%20cole.pdf
Ed Levine July 17, 2012 at 02:43 AM
^^^- I agree
Ed Levine July 17, 2012 at 02:49 AM
The Sheriff of Loudoun County supports Open Carry by law abiding citizens. https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/484183_384893411560748_1889817815_n.jpg
Ed Levine July 17, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Also.. those WITH a permit can carry within the General Assembly building even though you have it listed above that you can't.
Brian Reynolds July 17, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Completely agree with Philip and to enhance what Ed mentioned, we hold an open carry breakfast every Sunday in Loudoun County and periodically, open carry dinners--Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman, the Lt. Col., the Commonwealth Attorney, BOS and GA members as well as many deputies attend our open carry events in full support. However, one of the best things about Virginia is the VCDL; a grassroots organization constantly watching over and fighting for our Constitutional Right to keep and bear arms.
Joey July 17, 2012 at 08:32 AM
So I can openly carry a gun in public without a permit? The permits are for concealed correct?
Ed Levine July 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Correct Joey.
Ed Levine July 17, 2012 at 12:28 PM
One of the best ways for both citizens and law enforcement to learn the firearm laws in Virginia is join the Virginia Citizens Defense League ($25/year). The VCDL also has a FREE email alert system that sends out informative e-mails a few times a month on laws, changes, safety issues, training and events. Check it out at http://vcdl.org
Ed Levine July 17, 2012 at 03:05 PM
My comments in [brackets] - - - - Locations where firearms may not be carried include: Federal facilities Federal agency lands National Forests except where hunting is permitted General Assembly buildings [Carry authorized for CHP holders] Hog Island Wildlife Management Area Virginia Commonwealth University George Mason University Courthouses Detention Facilities K-12 school grounds [(CHP holders exempted for CC while in a vehicle; handgun secured in a container or compartment in a vehicle also exempted.) (§18.2-308.1)] K-12 school buses Property used exclusively for K-12 school sponsored functions Air carrier airport terminals [VA Air carrier airports are: Reagan, Charlottesvilleville, Dulles, Lynchburg, Newport News/Williamsburg, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke, Shenandoah Valley] Places of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held without good and sufficient reason [VA AG Opinion Self Defense is Reason - see http://tiny.cc/vaagchurch ]
D July 19, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I will soon take the course for a permit. All the "cannots and cans" will be tougher to remember then anything else.
Mike S. May 20, 2013 at 01:39 AM
Can you open Carry when out fishing by like the Shenandoah River and Goose Creek
Ed Levine May 20, 2013 at 02:00 AM
Sure you can Mike.. why not?
Desarae Wayne June 25, 2013 at 02:29 PM
*Virginia Code § 18.2-308. Personal protection; carrying concealed weapons; when lawful to carry; penalty.* http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+18.2-308.* *I did see some restrictions in regards to hunting & firearms on the water. I found these in: http://www.handgunlaw.us/states/virginia.pdf.* 4VAC15-40-120. Hog Island Wildlife Management Area; Possession of Loaded Gun Prohibited; Exception. It shall be unlawful to have in possession at any time a gun which is not unloaded and cased or dismantled on that portion of the Hog Island Wildlife Management Area bordering on the James River and lying north of the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, except while hunting deer or waterfowl in conformity with a special permit issued by the department.* *And 4VAC15-40-140. Prohibited on Buggs Island and Certain Waters of the Gaston Reservoir. It shall be unlawful to hunt or have in one's possession a loaded gun on Buggs Island or to shoot over or have a loaded gun upon the water on Gaston Reservoir (Roanoke River) from a point beginning at High Rock and extending to the John H. Kerr Dam. Statutory Authority §§ 29.1-103, 29.1-501 and 29.1-502 of the Code of Virginia.*
Desarae Wayne June 25, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I have a ? about open carry after you have your concealed carry permit. A friend told me he doesn't think I can open carry in VA anymore since I have my concealed carry permit now, because this is true in a lot of states. Is this the case in VA? I tried looking it up online & only saw something that said this may be the case in VA because it is the case in other states. Thanks!
TPKeller June 25, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Desarae, sadly, this is one of those all too may "wives tales" of gun laws. In Virginia, there is no law that requires a CHP-holder to carry their handgun in only a concealed manner. You need a permit to conceal, but not to carry openly - having a CHP does not change that.

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