Virginia Gun Owners Could Face Felony Charges Under New ‘Paramilitary Activities’ Amendment
A proposed amendment to a 30-year-old Virginia law would make it illegal to bring a firearm to any gathering if it can be proven that the goal was to ‘intimidate any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm.”
In short, if someone brings a firearm to a permitted event such as the ill-fated United the Right rally, and it can be argued that their goal was to intimidate Antifa counter-protesters as opposed to carrying in self-defense, that person could be subject to Class 5 felony charges under the amendment introduced by State Senator Louise Lucas (D-18th District).
The amendment stems from a lawsuit brought against Unite the Right organizer (and professional provocateur) Jason Kessler and several militia groups, accusing them of violating the state’s existing statute governing “unlawful paramilitary activity.” As a result of the lawsuit, “eleven named defendants had signed consent decrees in which they are “permanently enjoined from returning to Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of a unit of two or more persons acting in concert while armed with a firearm, weapon, shield, or any item whose purpose is to inflict bodily harm, at any demonstration, rally, protest, or march.”,” according to IREHR.
Of note, the statute does not declare tactical training illegal as has been reported elsewhere, as the existing law – which has been on the books more than 30 years – already makes it illegal if someone “teaches or demonstrates to any other person the use, application, or making of any firearm, explosive, or incendiary device” if said training “will be employed for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder.“
Given that most firearms instruction is intended for self-defense in all situations and not specifically during “civil disorder,” we don’t envision Virginia authorities barging in on training courses anytime soon.
The amendment can be seen below. New portions are italicized.
A BILL to amend and reenact §18.2-433.2 of the Code of Virginia, relating to paramilitary activities; penalty.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. That §18.2-433.2 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:
§18.2-433.2. Paramilitary activity prohibited; penalty.
shall be is guilty of unlawful paramilitary activity, punishable as a Class 5 felony if he:
1. Teaches or demonstrates to any other person the use, application, or making of any firearm, explosive, or incendiary device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to persons, knowing or having reason to know or intending that such training will be employed for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder;
2. Assembles with one or more persons for the purpose of training with, practicing with, or being instructed in the use of any firearm, explosive, or incendiary device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to persons, intending to employ such training for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder; or
3. Assembles with one or more persons with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm, any explosive or incendiary device, or any components or combination thereof.
2. That the provisions of this act may result in a net increase in periods of imprisonment or commitment. Pursuant to §30-19.1:4 of the Code of Virginia, the estimated amount of the necessary appropriation cannot be determined for periods of imprisonment in state adult correctional facilities; therefore, Chapter 854 of the Acts of Assembly of 2019 requires the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission to assign a minimum fiscal impact of $50,000. Pursuant to §30-19.1:4 of the Code of Virginia, the estimated amount of the necessary appropriation cannot be determined for periods of commitment to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.