RICHMOND (April 11, 2011) – Delegate Mark Cole requested an official advisory opinion from the attorney general as to whether citizens are allowed to carry firearms for self-protection into places of worship. This was the third inquiry from a legislator about this statute in the last year.
Virginia statute § 18.2-293 generally prohibits carrying a firearm into “a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place.” The statute provides an exception to this general prohibition when an individual has a “good and sufficient reason” for carrying the firearm.
It is the opinion of the attorney general, based on a thorough review of existing law and relevant prior court decisions, that carrying a weapon for self-defense legally constitutes a “good and sufficient reason” under the statute. This opinion assumes that the citizen is lawfully able to carry a weapon, and if carrying concealed, has the appropriate permit to do so.
For his opinion, the attorney general cited a 2010 court decision, Fullwood v. Commonwealth, where the court said, “[A] fundamental rule of statutory construction is that penal statutes are to be strictly construed against the Commonwealth and in favor of a citizen’s liberty.” He also cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion that the Second Amendment permits citizens to use handguns for the core lawful purpose of self-defense. Given these and other conclusions of the courts, the attorney general has advised that lawfully carrying a firearm for self-defense and personal protection constitutes a good and sufficient reason for the purpose of this statute.
The attorney general also notes that the Second Amendment acts as a restraint on government, not on private parties. And while the Constitution of Virginia protects the right to bear arms, it also recognizes the importance of property rights. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious entities – like any other owner of private property – can restrict or ban the carrying of weapons onto their premises.
You can find the full opinion here: http://www.vaag.com/OPINIONS/2011opns/11-043.pdf
Official opinions do not create new law. Instead, the opinions represent the attorney general’s analysis of the current state of the law based on his thorough review of existing law and relevant prior court decisions.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Politics, State Politics
Tags: attorney_general, cuccinelli, republican