The following is a video transcript.
It’s that time of the year again, the air is getting cold, frost is on the ground, horror movies are on TV, and children and possibly some adults are picking out the perfect Halloween costumes. So, let’s say you have found the perfect spooky costume and made sure that it has some extra wiggle room for your concealed carry weapon, what laws do you need to be aware of when trick-or-treating in Virginia?
Virginia’s laws do not specifically address carrying while trick-or-treating. Instead, we need to worry about laws that may address some specific locales where you are likely to head when trick-or-treating. Common among these locations are schools and churches. While in Virginia, carrying in a church is generally illegal, there is an exception though when there’s a good and sufficient reason.
Fortunately for Virginians, we have a 2011 attorney general opinion that stands for the proposition that carrying a weapon for personal protection will satisfy the good and sufficient reason requirement imposed by Virginia law. So generally, you can carry at a church during a Halloween event as long as you have a valid concealed handgun permit and you are carrying for personal protection. Keep in mind that churches, just like any other private property, can prohibit the carry of firearms and violations may result in a trespassing charge, which in true Halloween fashion is a scary thought.
Now let’s talk about schools that may host Halloween events. Our local high school hosts a haunted hallways night where different clubs set up stands in the hallways for neighborhood children to come trick or treat. In such an event, it would be illegal to carry a firearm. Carrying a firearm on school property is generally prohibited, even for special events. Many of you may already know this, but you should also know that this rule applies if the school hosts an event off of school property. In this case, the carry of weapons will be restricted wherever the event is held during the event so long as the property is being used at that time exclusively for the school-sponsored event.
If a Halloween event is held at a government building, it will also likely be off-limits for carrying a firearm. In Virginia, it is generally unlawful to carry a firearm at a government building, owned or maintained by the executive branch, which may include many community gathering areas. Other places that trick-or-treating events may take place follow the general rule that individuals or businesses may prohibit carry on their own property. If you continue to carry after receiving notice that the carrying of weapons is not allowed, you could be charged with trespassing.
Another note to keep you safe for Halloween is if your costume incorporates a firearm, make sure you use an obviously fake weapon. One sure way to ruin your celebration would actually be spooking someone else with a real weapon that was used as a prop in a costume. Beyond the obvious and major safety concerns, if you use a real weapon as part of a costume and do something with it intending to scare others, even as a joke, you will likely be charged with a crime such as brandishing.
Enjoy Halloween. Stay safe. And if you have any further questions about trick-or-treating with a firearm, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.