Friday, July 12, 2024

Historic Triangle sheriffs approve about 2,700 concealed carry permits each year — What does it take to carry a gun in public?

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)

In America, guns are a part of the culture.

There are gun ranges across Virginia, concealed carry permits offered by every circuit court and a population of avid game hunters.

By state law, most adult Virginians have the right to open carry a non-automatic or semiautomatic firearm without the need for a permit — save for situations where the carrier has a criminal history, they’re in a place where guns are prohibited or they are under the influence.

But with that right comes responsibility and common sense, York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs said.

“Just like your right to free speech, it’s something you should exercise wisely,” Diggs said.

So, what are the laws? Who can carry a weapon legally in Virginia?

Open carry

In Virginia, almost any adult can carry a gun in public without breaking the law or needing a concealed carry permit.

People who have been convicted of certain crimes — within a specific period of years, depending on the crime — cannot open carry.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League has compiled a list from Virginia Code showing where residents can — and can’t — bring a firearm.

Law does not allow weapons in public parks, according to Virginia Code.

The weapon that is being open-carried cannot be semiautomatic or automatic, hold more than 20 rounds, designed to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock. That also includes any shotgun being openly carried cannot hold more than seven rounds.

Some localities do not allow open-carry weapons, including Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond or Virginia Beach. Other localities are closer to Northern Virginia.

Local universities including William & Mary also do not allow guns to be carried in buildings or events.

“We find most people we come across who are open carrying are law abiding citizens and not a threat to anyone,” Diggs said. “But we do get calls about them.”

Diggs said deputies will approach people who are open carrying and engage in non confrontational conversation to determine whether there is a threat.

“People who open carry often know they’ll be approached by law enforcement to resolve any reports,” Diggs said.

Concealed carry

To carry a handgun concealed on their person, a resident must obtain a concealed handgun permit.

To get the permit, residents must apply at the circuit court covering the locality they live in and have proof of a handgun safety course. The application fee costs $35 in York County, and around $31 or $32 in Williamsburg and James City County.

The application is then sent to the sheriff’s office, where Diggs and Williamsburg-James City County Sheriff Bob Deeds then review the application and person’s background checks. If they need to, they will call the applicant with questions.

They will recommend approval or denial of the application, then send it to their respective commonwealth’s attorney, who will also give the green or red light.

The Williamsburg-James City County Sheriff’s Office also sends the application to both Williamsburg and James City County Police for approval, Deeds said.

If it’s approved, the circuit court handles the rest, issuing the permit to the individual applicant.

While criminal convictions can impact a person’s ability to obtain a concealed carry permit, so can residential treatment for mental illness and involuntary commitment to mental health facilities within the past five years, Diggs said.

Both sheriffs said it’s rare for them to deny concealed carry permit applications — just “a few” each year, they said.

Approved permits expire after five years.

Diggs said he approves around 1,500 concealed carry permit applications each year. Deeds approves between 1,200 and 1,300.

There are some places the general public and concealed carry permit holders cannot bring firearms. Those areas, much like open carry, include schools, some Virginia universities, churches, federal facilities and courthouses.

At the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse, which Deeds primarily oversees, does not allow any weapons — except those carried by law enforcement officials.

When a law enforcement officer enters the courthouse with a weapon, they need to notify deputies at the front security entrance they are law enforcement, Deeds said.

Deeds said he emphasizes the need to verify identity and employment of every officer that comes into the building, even if they’re there often.

“We want to be sure,” Deeds said. “We don’t want to make mistakes.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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