Carrying a Loaded Firearm in Public: Va Code 18.2-287.4

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The Virginia prohibition on carrying certain firearms in public is unique, as it applies only to a select few jurisdictions, including all of Northern Virginia – Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun. It is important to understand the prohibits when carrying a loaded firearm in Virginia. 

Prohibition on Carrying Certain Firearms

This law, Va. Code 18.2-287.4, says:

It shall be unlawful for any person to carry a loaded (a) semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock or (b) shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered on or about his person on any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or in any public park or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public in the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, or Virginia Beach or in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, or Prince William.

The provisions of this section shall not apply to law-enforcement officers, licensed security guards, military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, or any person having a valid concealed handgun permit or to any person actually engaged in lawful hunting or lawful recreational shooting activities at an established shooting range or shooting contest. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

As a threshold issue, Virginia does not generally prohibit the open-carry of firearms for individuals who are otherwise permitted to own and posses such firearms.

In the localities described above, though, carrying any rifle or pistol with a 20+ round magazine is prohibited, whether or not there are 20 rounds in the magazine. It is also prohibited to carry a rifle or pistol that is designed to accommodate a silencer, whether or not such silencer is actually attached – so any firearm with a threaded barrel. Similarly, carrying any firearm with a folding stock equipped is prohibited. For shotguns, that prohibition applies to any shotgun with a magazine that holds more than 7 round of the longest shells it is chambered for.


While this may cover a lot of firearms, none of these prohibitions on carrying a firearm apply to individuals with a valid concealed handgun permit, or to individuals currently at a shooting range or engaged in hunting. These prohibitions also only apply to loaded firearms, not transporting unloaded firearms.

Hire A Lawyer for Your Firearm Charge in Northern Virginia

If you have been charged with carrying a loaded firearm, our Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys are happy to represent you in courts throughout Northern Virginia. Contact Us to learn more about how we can help you.