Though the Constitution allows us the right to “keep and bear arms,” both the Virginia and federal governments are allowed to regulate those who have this right, and punish violators of those regulations. Those accused of violating any gun laws can benefit from the assistance of a seasoned Stafford gun lawyer as they mount a defense.
Carrying a concealed handgun without a permit is a commonly charged violation in the Commonwealth. “Concealed” means “hidden from common observation” [Virginia Code Section 18.2-308]. One must have a permit in order to legally carry a pistol [Section 18.2-308.01]. Penalty upon conviction for a first offense is a class 1 misdemeanor. Subsequent convictions are a class 6 felony. Punishments may include the following:
Those who keep a handgun in their home; or who travel to or from a shooting range, gun repair business, or weapons exhibition; or are lawfully hunting are exempt from failure-to-display charges, though some conditions must be followed in order to avoid charges [Section 18.2-308 (A)].
The State Police grants permits to residents of and visitors to Virginia who are at least 21 years old [Section 18.2-308.06]. But there is a restricted list of people who cannot have a handgun permit. They include but are not limited to:
No one may willfully fire any gun in public, which is defined as a “street in any town or city, or in a public place of business, or public gathering” [Section 18.2-280]. If they do, however, but no one is wounded, the resulting charge may be class 1 misdemeanor, and the penalty is up to a fine of $2,500 and/or up to twelve months in jail. But if someone is wounded, the party responsible for the discharge may be hit with a class 6 felony. Though the penalties may the same as for a class 1 misdemeanor (a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine), the judge or jury is permitted to assess the harsher penalty of one to five years in prison as well. If a victim is killed, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charges might await the suspect, depending on the circumstances [Sections 18.2-35 and 18.2-36]
Some firearms-discharge convictions are more severe. If the suspect fires a gun at or near an elementary or secondary school campus, it may be charged as class 4 felony. Conviction under this statute brings a harsh punishment, a prison sentence of two to 10 years by law. The fine is also as much as $100,000.
Use of a firearm when committing a felony: When suspects commit serious crimes and have a gun, this brings another felony charge [18.2-53.1]. When the accused is found guilty, the underlying crime’s incarceration penalty is “enhanced.” This means that both felony sentences run consecutively to produce a lengthier prison sentence.
Many federal gun charges surround “enterprise” crimes involving organizations that possess or distribute and/or sell illegal firearms, large numbers of guns (which could be stolen), illegal automatic weapons, body armor, explosives, or ammunition. Transportation of any illegal (or stolen) firearm across state lines or our national borders is also a serious federal felony. Those who transport drugs are involved in sex crimes or other serious offenses often carry illegal weapons and for this reason the government takes these weapons charges very seriously.
All federal weapons violations are charged under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 44. They are very strict and carry serious penalties that can be much more severe than Commonwealth charges.
When charged with any Commonwealth or federal weapons violation, an experienced and skilled Stafford gun lawyer is a tremendous option for mounting an effective defense.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law