So, you went out and got a Virginia Resident Concealed Handgun Permit.

Doesn’t take much to pack heat in the Commonwealth. If you don’t have a criminal record, no public record of mental problems and pass a incredibly simple course that can be taken online, the Circuit Judge in your county or city issues a permit without much hassle.

But even with a permit, the law does prohibit carrying a loading weapon into:

  • A bar or restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages if the holder of the permit is drinking. Non-drinkers can carry and Virginia’s open carry laws allow you to drink and pack;
  • A church during worship services;
  • Courthouses;
  • School property, but  “exemptions to this statute include a person who has a valid concealed handgun permit and possesses a concealed handgun while in a motor vehicle in a parking lot, traffic circle, or other means of vehicular ingress or egress to the school;”
  • An airport terminal.

Federal law prohibit carrying a weapon in a Post Office or a federal building. You can pack on the Blue Ridge Parkway because the law was changed in 2010 to allow guns in national parks in states that have a concealed carry law (and 48 of the 50 states do).

Through formal written reciprocity agreements, you can cross state lines and carry in the adjoining states of North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia but not in the District of Columbia.  Virginia also has formal reciprocity agreements with Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

According to the Virginia State Police web site, the Commonwealth also has “informal” agreements with Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. This means you “should” be able to carry in these states but you might run into a problem in some jurisdictions.

But don’t even try to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois or Wisconsin. Those are the only two states left with no concealed carry law of any kind for private citizens, although a law is currently under consideration in the Illinois House but it does not allow for reciprocity with any other state. Wisconsin has an open carry law but it is challenged frequently by police departments who still charge people with “disorderly conduct” if they try to carry a weapon openly in the state.

A hot topic in Virginia and other states is whether or not to permit students to carry firearms on college campuses.  Since Virginia law does not allow anyone under 21 to own a handgun, allowing concealed carry on campus would probably apply only to seniors and post grad students but proponents argue that the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007 where student Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many more before committing suicide might have been prevented if some students were armed.

Or the death toll could have been higher since Virginia does not require any actual firearms proficiency (such as range qualification) to obtain a concealed carry permit and the idea of students without training opening fire in a tense situation could have led to more innocent casualties.

As with any debate concerning guns, the issue is emotional and filled with more passion than reasoned thinking. Both sides let propaganda overrun facts. There’s no quick, easy answer.

But putting law aside, the real question here is not where the law “allows” the holder of a concealed carry permit to pack heat but more of where “should” you carry a weapon. Carrying a loaded weapon into a bar increases the chance of a violent confrontation because even if the one carrying the gun is not drinking, others are and arguments and fights to break out in bars.

So is packing at a protest rally where emotions run high and tempers flare. It may be legal but is it advisable?  I’d suggest it is not.

Like any situation in modern day life, common sense should come into play.

(For the record, the author of this article is a gun owner, a life member of the National Rifle Association and does hold a valid concealed carry permit.)

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