Reports   of the   Attorney General   (1978-1979)   at 324


August 7, 1978

The Honorable Frank W. Nolen

Member, Senate of Virginia

You have asked whether it is unlawful to "carry a pistol in a holster not concealed" for one's "own personal protection."

The only provision of the Virginia Code which prohibits the carrying of an unconcealed weapon is § 18.2-283 of the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, which makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to carry a dangerous weapon, including a pistol, into a place of worship without "good and sufficient reason." Whether the carrying of a pistol into a place of worship for one's own personal protection would be considered "good and sufficient reason" is, of course, a matter to be determined by a court in light of all of the circumstances preceding the incident.

Although there is no specific provision of the Virginia Code which prohibits the carrying of an unconcealed weapon on the person, there are various statutes which prohibit the use or display of such a weapon in an unlawful manner. In this regard, it is a felony to use, brandish in threatening manner, or attempt to use a pistol or other firearm to commit murder, rape, robbery, burglary or abduction under the   provisions of § 18.2-53.1. Moreover, §§ 18.2-279 and 18.2-280 prohibit the malicious and willful discharge of a firearm in an occupied building and public places, respectively, without justifiable excuse. Section 18.2-282 prohibits pointing or brandishing a firearm in the presence of any person in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear without justifiable excuse, § 18.2-285 prohibits persons from hunting with firearms under the influence of intoxicants, and § 18.2-286 prohibits anyone to discharge a firearm within 100 yards of a roadway without justifiable excuse.

You should also be aware that, even though the Code of Virginia does not specifically prohibit the carrying of an unconcealed weapon, it does authorize the localities to adopt ordinances prohibiting possession of loaded firearms in a stationary vehicle where the occupant does not have a license to hunt on either side of the roadway, and to prohibit transporting a loaded rifle or shotgun on a public street or highway within such locality unless the possession is for personal safety. Again, whether possession of firearms under the above statutes is for "personal safety" and, consequently, justifiable and lawful is a matter to be determined by the court under a given set of circumstances. Since the question you pose arises within the jurisdiction of the City of Waynesboro, you should inquire of the Commonwealth's Attorney whether there are local ordinances prohibiting possession of unconcealed weapons within the context of the Code of Virginia.

I am, therefore, of the opinion that the carrying of an unconcealed pistol about the person in a holster does not of itself violate the provisions of the Code. Unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting the carrying of weapon in certain circumstances as authorized by the Virginia Code, it may be worn unconcealed upon the person.



Virginia1774 Note: Part of this opinion has now been superceded by § 15.2-915 and other statutes now make it unlawful to possess a firearm at other places including : State Courts , School grounds/school events , Carrying weapon in air carrier airport terminal.  , General Assembly Building . and § 18.2-287.4