What is considered a weapon?

close-up of a hunting rifle

Understanding Laws Surrounding Weapons

Today, we’re going to answer questions about weapons charges, weapons charges bail, and the law that brings these all together in Virginia. Topics like open carry laws are as hot as legalized marijuana these days, and while lawmakers may think the law is black and white, there are still gray areas and questions for the public. 

What is considered open carry?

In Virginia, open carry means a person of 18 years of age and older can carry a handgun in a visible holster. There isn’t any law in Virginia requiring the purchase of handguns to be registered. 

However, for the residents of Virginia, an application to your resident county at the circuit courts. Non-residents are required to submit an application to the State Police. The state is a “shall issue” state, meaning that this application process will determine if the applicant will be allowed open carry. Any person that has not applied or has not been approved, can find themselves arrested on weapons charges, bail may or may not be allowed by the judge. 

The sale and the purchase of a handgun are required to be completed through a registered gun dealer where a background check will be performed. Only one handgun purchase per month is allowed by law unless you have a concealed carry permit.

In the State of Virginia, open carry is legal without a permit for 18-year-olds and up. Local laws within the state however may prohibit open carry in parks, public buildings, and at special events. Open carry in any of these areas that are prohibited by local law will be facing weapons charges, bail is set, and a court date will be set.

Can I carry a loaded gun?

As a gun owner, if you choose to conceal your loaded weapon, you must have a concealed carry permit. Without a concealed carry permit, any person found to have a loaded weapon will face weapons charges, bail must be posted, and a court hearing will be set. 

No permit is required if the firearm is unloaded, typical for persons on a hunting trip, going to target practice, traveling to a gun shop, or other reasons. It is unlawful to carry or transport a loaded rifle or shotgun in some jurisdictions though, like hunting on public roads. 

How many rounds can you carry?

There is a round limit for magazines in some states and anyone in possession of more than that limit can be arrested with weapons charges, bail is set, and they must await trial. In the state of Virginia, there are no magazine restrictions, however, any magazine that has the capacity to hold 20 or more rounds is considered an “assault weapon” which requires the person with this magazine to comply with the state’s “assault weapons” laws.

Which bullets are illegal in Virginia?

There are regulations in some states regarding .50-caliber ammunition, such as Connecticut and Washington, D.C. laws prohibit the sale or possession of .50-caliber ammunition. The State of California bans the sale or possession of any ammunition larger than .60 caliber

The state statute of Virginia does not forbid the possession of virtually any ammunition type, however, specific federal laws are in place restricting the ammunition an individual may have, making it illegal if a person is found to have any of the “restricted firearm ammunition” during the attempt or while committing a crime. The restricted ammunition types include:

  • Ammunition layered in Teflon or any similar compound like polytetrafluorethylene
  • Any cartridge containing bullets plastic coated, and not lead or lead alloy cores
  • Jacketed bullets without a lead or lead alloy core
  • Full metal bullets other than lead

A significant exception is shotgun shells and shot, or solid plastic or rubber bullets for non-lethal self-defense. Any person found using any of these limited ammunition types could face an enhanced factor during their sentencing after being presented on weapons charges, bail posted and released, or without bail being posted.

Can you keep a gun in your car?

Yes, in the state of Virginia, a person may open carry in their vehicle if the weapon we obtained legally. 

What self defense weapons are legal?

Under certain conditions, in Virginia, a firearm may be used for self-defense. However, there are certain conditions where non-lethal weapons, when reasonably used, are not deemed deadly force. Those weapons are:  

  • Batons
  • Pepper spray
  • Stun guns
  • Tasers

This doesn’t mean you won’t ever be arrested, find yourself with a need for weapons charges bail, and end up having a court date set, though.  An experienced defense attorney is recommended to guide you through this type of case to have the charges dropped.

Which weapons are illegal in Virginia?

Under the same state code section that with firearms, there are prohibited weapons listed which include: 

  • Machete
  • Nunchucks
  • Throwing Stars

An exception would be if these are needed for work reasons. Batons and blackjacks are explicitly listed in the state code along with certain knives having a long blade. 

Is a knife a weapon or a tool?

The state law in Virginia imposes some restrictions on non-automatic pocket knives with a folding metal blade shorter than 3”. This includes carry restrictions for bowie knives and dirks. 

Can scissors be considered a weapon? 

Scissors themselves are not listed as deadly weapons in Virginia. But, depending on if a person uses them and that results in another person dying, then they could be considered a deadly weapon. 

close-up of Japanese swords

In Conclusion

Overall, the State of Virginia has basic, simple laws when it comes to weapons. Any person arrested on weapons charges, bail posted, and a court date set should seek the advice of legal counsel to assure they are getting a fair trial.