What does the 2019 election mean to Virginia gun owners and FFLs?

What does the 2019 election mean to Virginia gun owners and FFLs?

Since Tuesday’s election, my phone has been ringing non-stop.  Gun owners and dealers have heard the Governor and the newly-elected majority bragging about their plans to decimate the right to keep and bear arms in the Commonwealth and they are rightfully concerned.  The question on everyone’s mind is “What does the 2019 election mean to Virginia gun owners and FFLs?

Many people have expressed an intent to move out of state.

Others are insisting that they will not comply with any new laws that infringe upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Dealers are asking whether  it is worth it to keep their SOT or make new investments in their business.

Buyers are asking whether they should even bother completing Form 4s for newly purchased suppressors.

Other, more pragmatic, callers are asking focused questions about the scope of the proposed laws, whether there will be any grandfathering, or if there will be compensation for items banned.

But all of them share one thing in common … they want to understand just how bad the legal environment will be after the 2020 session and want advice on what to do.

I, as a gun owners myself, understand and share in these concerns.  While it is clear that gun-owners are going to be the stalking horse for all the problems faced by this administration, my short-term advice is this … “for now act as if nothing has changed.

Let me explain …

1)  The bills that were introduced during the special session were intended to make a political statement rather than to present actual effective legislation.  They were a kitchen-sink of gun control items to distract from the scandals plaguing the Governor and Lt. Governor and to secure the support of gun-control groups for the 2019 election.  We will certainly see the same proposals again but the ones that will be introduced in the Spring will almost certainly have key differences and until we see those differences, we cannot evaluate the effects and chances at passage.

2)  After the special session failed to yield any results, the Virginia State Crime Commission conducted hearings on the proposals to study what effect they each might have on actual crime in the Commonwealth.  The Virginia State Crime Commission is bi-partisan and should be counted upon to deliver advice that actually speaks to the real data concerning the various proposals.  For example, that suppressors do not ‘silence’ a firearm any more than a muffler silences a dump truck.  It merely reduces the sound so that hearing protection can more adequately protect a shooter’s hearing.

3)  There are those in the governor’s party who are ‘moderates’ (or who at least act moderate due pressure from their constituents) and who will not be willing to support some of the more draconian of his proposals.  Any findings from the Crime Commission will provide political cover to these ‘moderates’.  It is my hope that the proposed suppressor ban in particular may fall due to this combination.  I hope it may also be a stumbling block to the ‘assault firearm’ ban, at least in its current form.

4)  Even if some, or all, of the governor’s proposals are signed into law, the versions passed will of necessity almost certainly have elements of grandfathering, phase-in periods, etc., and will not take effect until July 1, 2020.  And even then, I fully anticipate that VCDL, NRA, GOA, and possibly other gun rights groups will be mounting legal challenges that may result in the laws being delayed in implementation.  All of this gives those who may wish to move their families or collections out of state plenty of time to react after we know the actual details of what we are facing and can craft appropriate solutions.

NOTE:  I have been asked several time whether these could be passed as Emergency Legislation and therefore go into effect prior to July 1.  The answer is a resounding “No”.

Pursuant to Article 4, § 13 of the Virginia Constitution as well as § 1-214 of the Code of Virginia, they would require a four-fifths vote of the members in each house of the General Assembly and they do not have anywhere close to that kind of support.

5)  If gun owners stop participating in the firearms economy now for fear of what might happen then they will end up destroying those businesses who have invested their lives in the industry.  It would be truly short-sighted for gun owners to destroy the industry by non-participation before any bills are even re-introduced.  Instead, support your local gun shop, add to your collection, stock up on accessories!

6) We are seeing a groundswell of localities that are passing “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions which promise non-enforcement of unconstitutional laws. Given the number that have already adopted such resolutions and the number scheduled for debate, it is extremely likely that by January 8th when the session officially starts, over 75% of all localities will have passed such resolutions.  Politicians, even ideologues, respect only two things, money and numbers.  Such an unprecedented groundswell will give pause to all but the most ardent supporter of civilian disarmament.  See the latest map below:

Please understand that this advice is merely meant to answer the questions we are all facing in the days following the election.  I am not saying that gun owners should stick their heads in the sand.  Nor am I saying that things will be fine.  They most certainly will not be fine.  We are facing a focused attempt to destroy the traditions of shooting sports in the Commonwealth. However, we need to continue to fight within the political and legal channels available to us to try and minimize the impact.

I will update this post as more information becomes available.


Take Action in The Meantime

In the meantime, people want to know what they can do.  With the full disclosure that I am an unpaid member of the Board of Directors of VCDL, I suggest the following:

1) Join the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).

2) Sign up for the VCDL VA-ALERT email list.

3) Contact your Senator and Delegate and tell them you expect them to oppose these bills.

4) Do whatever is necessary to be at the VCDL Lobby Day on Monday January 20, 2020.

5)  Work to have your locality pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution.  While the effect of these is largely symbolic, they send a powerful message to the incoming majority that any attempt at banning or confiscating firearms will run counter to the will of the majority of Virginians.  You may download the VCDL Model Resolution here.

6) Encourage your friends and family members do repeat these steps.

Posted in Age To Possess, AR-15, Assault Firearms, NFA Trusts, Virginia Law, Virginia Politics | Comments Off on What does the 2019 election mean to Virginia gun owners and FFLs?

Is it legal to carry an expandable baton in Virginia?

Is it legal to carry an expandable baton in Virginia?

Is it legal to carry an expandable baton in Virginia?”  I was asked this question today and thought it would make a good article.

As is often the case with seemingly simple questions like this one, there are nuances that must be addressed.  Let’s unpack all the hidden details of this question.

Defining Our Terms

First, we need to define what is meant by an ‘expandable baton’.  In addition, and perhaps more importantly, we need to define what it is not.

An ‘expandable baton’, is a nested series of metal or composite rods that can be extended with manual effort, usually the flick of a wrist.  They have no mechanical assistance in expanding.

There is a similar device which expands with a spring that the user can actuate.  For purposes of this analysis, this is not an ‘expandable baton’ but rather a ‘spring stick’.

The legal definition of a ‘spring stick’ is found in § 18.2-307.1, which defines it as “a spring-loaded metal stick activated by pushing a button that rapidly and forcefully telescopes the weapon to several times its original length.”

Now that we have our definitions in order, we can continue unpacking the other issues involved in answering the question.

Sale / Purchase

In order to ‘carry’ an item, you must be able to purchase and possess it. This additionally implies that it must be legal for the item to be sold to you in the first place. So we will first look to see if there is any legal prohibition on the sale, purchase, or possession of expandable batons in Virginia.

The only law which might apply is § 18.2-311 which states:

If any person sells or barters, or exhibits for sale or for barter, or gives or furnishes, or causes to be sold, bartered, given or furnished, or has in his possession, or under his control, with the intent of selling, bartering, giving or furnishing, any blackjack, brass or metal knucks, any disc of whatever configuration having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart, switchblade knife, ballistic knife as defined in § 18.2-307.1, or like weapons, such person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. The having in one’s possession of any such weapon shall be prima facie evidence, except in the case of a conservator of the peace, of his intent to sell, barter, give or furnish the same.

Given that an expandable baton is not in any way a blackjack, which is a flexible, leather-covered hand weapon that has a handle on one end and is weighted on the other, there is nothing in this statute which could be read to prohibit the sale, barter, or transfer of an expandable baton.

Carry

So now we are back to the heart of our question … “Is it legal to carry an expandable baton in Virginia?

When we talk about carry of a self-defense item, we often distinguish between open and concealed carry.  We do this for the simple reason that there are many items that are legal to carry when they are not concealed but are illegal to carry concealed … even with a permit.

And that bring us to one of the common misconceptions I encounter.  Many people still believe that Virginia issues a ‘Concealed Weapons Permit’.  While that used to be the case, it is now a ‘Concealed Handgun Permit’ and no longer allows other enumerated weapons to be carried concealed upon the person.

Having set the stage for our analysis, we have two questions we need to ask. “Is there a law making it illegal to possess or carry an expandable baton openly, and, if not, are they among the enumerated list of items that cannot be carried concealed upon the person?”

The answer to the first question is “no”.  There is no law in Virginia making it illegal to openly carry an ‘expandable baton’.

The answer to the second question is “no” as well but this answer comes with something of a caveat.  The concealed carry statute, located at § 18.2-308, prohibits the concealed carry of:

(i) any pistol, revolver, or other weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind by action of an explosion of any combustible material;

(ii) any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete, razor, slingshot, spring stick, metal knucks, or blackjack;

(iii) any flailing instrument consisting of two or more rigid parts connected in such a manner as to allow them to swing freely, which may be known as a nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken, or fighting chain;

(iv) any disc, of whatever configuration, having at least two points or pointed blades which is designed to be thrown or propelled and which may be known as a throwing star or oriental dart; or

(v) any weapon of like kind as those enumerated in this subsection

Since we have already discussed the definitional differences between an ‘expandable baton’ and a ‘blackjack’ or ‘spring stick’, the only possible provision which might be used to prosecute the concealed carry of an expandable baton is subsection (v) which broadly sweeps in weapons “of like kind.”

The question then becomes whether an officer or Commonwealth’s Attorney could possibly consider an expandable baton which extends manually via a flick of the wrist to be “of like kind” with a spring-loaded stick that actuates by the push of a button.

I believe any such attempt would strain credulity but I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t note that it is not impossible that such an attempt could be made.  I have done a cursory search of case law and have found no such cases but it was not an exhaustive search.

Conclusion

So … “Is it legal to carry an expandable baton in Virginia?”  I believe the answer is “yes” with the qualifications noted in the previous section.


Disclaimer:  This information is presented for educational purposes only and does not give rise to an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, I am licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and this answer may not be appropriate for other states. If you have further questions about this topic, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

Posted in Blackjack, Concealed Handgun Permit, Expandable Batons, Non-Traditional Weapons, Spring Stick, Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit, Virginia Law | Comments Off on Is it legal to carry an expandable baton in Virginia?

The Virginia State Crime Commission has issued their report on gun violence

As I mentioned in last week’s post-election article concerning the possible impact of the 2019 election on the civil rights of Virginia’s gun owners, after the 2019 special session failed to yield any results, the Virginia State Crime Commission (VSCC) conducted hearings on the governor’s proposals to study what effect they each might have on actual crime in the Commonwealth.

Earlier today (November 12, 2019), the VSCC released their report.

It had been my hope that the report would contain technical details to counteract the significant amount of misinformation regarding items such as suppressors and so-called ‘assault firearms’.  However, that is not what we received.

On the other hand, the report also does not provide any support for the governor’s recommendations, rather noting that “inconclusive evidence exists to develop recommendations.”

Further commentary will follow.  In the meantime, the complete report is embedded below:

Download (PDF, 931KB)

Posted in Virginia Law, Virginia Politics, Virginia State Crime Commission | Comments Off on The Virginia State Crime Commission has issued their report on gun violence