13 April 2006

The Governor & Carrying Weapons in the Open

Virginia has a concealed weapons law - no shock there. The problem has been that some amazingly bad case law has sprung up around this statute.

In Virginia, if you have a firearm in your car you are required to keep it in the open. Unless you have a concealed carry permit you are forbidden from locking the pistol in the glove compartment or even from locking it in a carrying case under the seat. For example, if you go to a very dangerous part of Richmond where about 2 cars a week are car-jacked you might want to take your pistol with you. On the other hand, perhaps you are just going to the range to target shoot. In either case, you must keep the pistol on the car seat, in plain sight, from the moment you sit down in your car until you leave (and take it with you). Should you leave the car at any time you cannot lock the pistol in the glove compartment - you must leave it in plain sight. If you have to stop and get gas you must leave the pistol in plain sight when you go inside to pay.

Of course, this is a part of the law which violates common sense. In other words it falls under the maxim "Nihil quod est contra rationem est licitum." Of course, not being a morally valid statute doesn't keep it from being enforced.

Usually, the situation which brings this to court is when a driver of a car tries to do the right thing and lock his pistol away where neither he or anyone else can get to it quickly and he gets pulled over. The officer wants to see his registration and it's locked in the glove compartment with the pistol. Mostly these charges are filed by rookies who aren't comfortable using their discretion, but occasionally you see them filed by a veteran officer who is angry at Client for some reason or wants to get "that elephant gun" off the street. Quite often the charge is dropped when Client agrees to relinquish his pistol (and then goes to a gun show over the next weekend and replaces it).

Republican Delegate Athey proposed a common sense addition to the concealment statute which would fix all this; by the time it passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate its language was:
Except as provided in subsection J1, this section shall not apply to:
. . .
8. Any person who may lawfully possess a firearm and is carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel and such handgun is locked in a container or compartment in such vehicle or vessel
It solved the problem. However, our beloved Governor, Tim Kaine, vetoed the bill. Why?
This measure runs contrary to existing state law regarding concealed weapon permits, allowing persons who have not completed a criminal background check, and who are untrained with a handgun, to possess a firearm in a concealed manner within a locked compartment in their automobiles.

It also presents a danger to our law enforcement officers, who risk their lives for Virginians on a daily basis while patrolling our Commonwealth's roads and highways. The objections of law enforcement to this measure are compelling
What an idiot. Of course, "it runs contrary to existing state law" - it's an attempt to fix an aberrationn in the law which punishes people for trying to be responsible. Arrrrggggg!!!!!


Windypundit said...

Crazy. Here in Illinois, we're required to have the gun in a locked container while transporting it. Having the gun out in the open would be carrying it, and Illinois does not allow civilians to carry guns. (I'm pretty sure the trunk and maybe the glove box count as locked containers.)

Anonymous said...

I can understand having a concealed weapons law on a person but not in a vehicle as it may contradict with the safe & secure carriage of that weapon. There must be a requirement to produce a concealed\hidden\secured weapon on request by a police officer? The law-abiding would secrete their firearm and the unlawful would probably not regardless. A search could then take place in order to find it and determine unlawful carriage?

Ken Lammers said...

Virginian law, developed by judges through various cases interpreting the concealed weapon statute, clearly states that if the firearm could be within reach of someone in the car and it is not in plain sight the law is violated. This has been held to include firearms locked in the glove compartment, in a locked box, and a firearm in the trunk of a car if the back seat of the car folds down allowing passengers access to that area.

If you have a concealed carry permit there's no requirement to reveal the firearm to anyone as long as you are acting in a legal manner (you'd be an idiot not to tell the officer, but there is no requirement). Actually, there was one early form of the bill which would have allowed concealment in the vehicle "provided that such person, if detained by a law-enforcement officer, informs the law-enforcement officer as soon as practicable of the possession, and secures the handgun at the law-enforcement officer’s direction or allows the law-enforcement officer to secure the handgun for the duration of the contact" but it didn't make it through to the final content of the bill.

Ken Lammers said...

BTW: Scuttlebutt around the courthouse has it that people who often run afoul of the law know this law well and are now storing their pistols in the engine compartment. There's no way the courts can say they could reach the firearm thru the firewall. It also makes proof of possession difficult but that's an issue for another day.