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Thread: Disorderly conduct/brandishing: some definitions

  1. #1
    Campaign Veteran Dutch Uncle's Avatar
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    A number of threads here and on Packing.org have discussed potential brandishing and disorderly conduct charges against those who bear arms, so I decided to do a little research. Merriam-Webster defines brandishing as 1) To shake or wave (as a weapon) menacingly; 2) To exhibit in an ostentatious or aggressive manner.

    The Code of Virginia Searchable Database ( 18.2-282) says "It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold or brandish any firearm....in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured."

    Accordingly, it seems the peaceful carriage of a firearm could be not be construed as "brandishing".

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    Disorderly conduct (or disturbing the peace) is defined in 18.2-415: "A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof he ..... in any public place engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person(s) at whom such conduct is directed. [later] However, the conduct prohibited......shall not.....include the utterance or display of any words...."

    Obviously, our First Amendment protections of speech/written word defend against a frivolous DC charge. In my opinion, since the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, and Art. 1, Sec 13 of the Virginia Constitution protect the right to keep and bear arms, the (legal) behavior of simply bearing a weapon in public should not constitute disorderly conduct.

    (Of course, IANAL and IDEPOOTV, TINLA, etc. but I thought these definitions might be reassuring to folks on this site.)

  2. #2
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    Dutch Uncle wrote
    The Code of Virginia Searchable Database ( 18.2-282) says "It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold or brandish any firearm....in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured."
    Many states include the same, or very similar, language in their statutes. But ... they do not define the term "brandish," and therein lies the problem. If the police wish to make an example of you, even if the weapon is in a holster on your belt they will charge you under this language if they have even one bystander who will claim to have been "terrified" by the sight of a "man with a gun!" It's hogwash, of course, and generally doesn't stand up in court -- but it requires that you hire an attorney and show up in court to defend yourself against the bogus charge.

    To a reasonable person, "brandish" does indeed mean to wave around conspicuously. To an LEO out to make a bust, "display" ==> "brandish."

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