Defending Yourself Against Knockout Gang Criminals With A Gun in Virginia

BY Peter J. Louie, Esq.

Virginia Citizens Defense League
Virginia Citizens Defense League

Covington VA –-( I’m sure many of you have heard of the “knockout game.”

If you haven’t, it is a game where the participants randomly select an innocent stranger and attempt to knock them out with one punch. Three people have already been killed in suspected knockout attacks. As Matt Walsh notes:

In some corners of the Earth, this activity is also known as “attempted murder.” Here, for some teenagers, it’s a hobby, like collecting baseball cards.

Matt advises his readers to defend themselves with a gun. This is good advice, but before you do that, here’s a primer on Virginia law.

In Virginia, you may open carry a weapon in most places with or without a concealed handgun permit. If you go on private property and the owner of the establishment prohibits guns, you must abide by their wishes. To learn more about where you can carry, I would recommend you check out the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League website. For example, there are prohibitions on carrying on federal facilities and schools.

In Virginia, if you desire to conceal carry a weapon, you will need a Concealed Handgun Permit. This is relatively easy to get. You can take a concealed carry online safety course, then apply for your concealed handgun permit at your local Circuit Court. Again, the VCDL website may be a good resource for you to learn about prohibited areas.

But be careful not to brandish a weapon. Virginia Code Section 18.2-282 states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold or brandish any firearm or any air or gas operated weapon or any object similar in appearance, whether capable of being fired or not, in such manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another or hold a firearm or any air or gas operated weapon in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured. However, this section shall not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense.

Some commentators have argued that the brandishing statute should be rewritten to prevent those with hoplophobia, an unreasonable fear of guns, from abusing the statute. There was recently a case where a citizen that was moving his own weapon from his person to a console while in his own vehicle was charged with brandishing a weapon because he was spotted by a hoplophobic bystander.

You should only draw your weapon if you need it for self-defense and are justified in using it. Brandishing a firearm in defense of personal property is a crime. There must be imminent danger to human life to justify drawing your weapon. The Virginia Court of Appeals notes: “… the amount of force used to defend oneself must not be excessive and must be reasonable in relation to the perceived threat.” Diffendal v. Commonwealth, 8 Va.App. 417, 421, 382 S.E.2d 24,25 (1989).

The Virginia Citizens Defense League properly cites the relevant portions of the Sands case, which states:

The “bare fear” of serious bodily injury, or even death, however well-grounded, will not justify the taking of human life… “There must [also] be some overt act indicative of imminent danger at the time.” (citations omitted). In other words, a defendant “must wait till some overt act is done[,] … till the danger becomes imminent.” (citation omitted). In the context of a self-defense plea, “imminent danger” is defined as “[a]n immediate, real threat to one’s safety …” (citation omitted). “There must be . . . some act menacing present peril… [and] [t]he act… must be of such a character as to afford a reasonable ground for believing there is a design… to do some serious bodily harm, and imminent danger of carrying such design into immediate execution.” – Commonwealth v. Sands, 262 Va. 724, 729, 553 S.E.2d 733, (2001).

Because these knockout thugs operate with the element of surprise and there is legal risk involved in drawing a weapon preemptively or even in firing in self-defense, I would counsel you to be thoughtful about whether you should open carry or conceal carry your handgun. Some of my readers may opt to do both. Obviously you can’t brandish a weapon, but open carrying may provide a deterrent effect. (Or perhaps you might open carry an unloaded weapon and conceal carry a loaded one if you foresee someone grabbing your weapon.)

Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit:

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Molon Labe

I don’t know if VA allows its citizens to legally carry expandable batons but if they don’t; this is a good reason why they should. Just don’t hit them in the head or neck unless you have no choice as in it’s you or them gonna die today. The best defense is to stay in condition one though. Ready and aware of your surroundings without being complacent. I’m sure someone already said that. I didn’t read all the post so far. If the baton doesn’t work and your life is still threatened. Tap Tap up Tap… dial 911. One less… Read more »


Don’t tell me WHEN I can pull my weapon. I will pull it when I need it, and if you happen to be in the way, you will catch the first couple rounds. Don’t care who you are.


“(Or perhaps you might open carry an unloaded weapon and conceal carry a loaded one if you foresee someone grabbing your weapon.)”

Bad advice. If the SHTF, the ADA may paint open carrying an unloaded firearm while concealing a loaded one as “baiting”, and jack you up REAL GOOD.


these gangs of violent thugs are a good reason why we need standard capacity magazines. Why would anyone need more than 10 rounds? When gangs of 20 or 30 violent people attack you.


The author misses the tactic. Knock out games are a form of sucker punching. There is no warning. The victims are essentially hit from behind or the side and are blind to the attack. Their really is no defense to being bush wacked other than to not go out in public.

Mark Reynolds

@Kevin…sound like you are being redundant with that list.

Mark Reynolds

“Brandishing a firearm in defense of personal property is a crime.” This should be changed. If someone is trying to steel my car, or television they are in effect stealing MY LIFE. If it takes me 500 hours of MY LIFE to be able to trade enough of MY LABOR for the funds to purchase the car, the thief will have effectively STOLEN 500 HOURS of my LIFE which is non redeemable. Personal property is an extension of YOUR LIFE and should be able to be defended from theft or damage by some thief or hoodlum.
Get that fixed Virginia.


Exactly Right on.


Here’s an idea the unloaded weapon that you have put rod in the barrel so when they do try to fire it the thing blows up in their face. that would be on the attacker.


George Zimmerman demonstrated how to stop this sort of nonsense. It’s not a game and it ruins you financially at a minimum!

Kevin McGonigal

How come I never saw this video on MSNBC? By the way, this being NJ, no one has to worry about when to draw out their legally carried handgun. The only people carry here are cops, crooks, crazies and criminals. The rest of us are just targets.

Jesse Scott

Once a few knock out thugs get shot the game will loose it’s cool

Gregory Romeu

“(Or perhaps you might open carry an unloaded weapon and conceal carry a loaded one if you foresee someone grabbing your weapon.)”

This suggestion is not only ignorant but far more dangerous than the Knock-Out game and will get you killed.

Dr. Strangelove

If you practice good situational awareness, chances are the thugs will pass you by. Like four legged predators, they prey on the weak, old and inattentive.

Leo Smith

Knock out game is a racist attack on whites.


It may be a good idea to carry,in hand, a small can of pepper spray when walking down a street. The problem is being able to recognize the threat and be faster than the perp (actor…for those living in Pennsy)


As I understand the law , if you are threatened by thugs on the street , and you feel you have to let them know you can defend yourself by displaying your gun , you then HAVE to shoot them to avoid being arrested for brandishing your weapon . Sounds great to me , kill all the b–t–ds and let God sort them out .

TSgt B

Seems to me that the good citizens of Virginia should demand that their legislature amend the statutes to give the benefit of the doubt to the law-abiding citizen under attack. As I read this, one must wait until the knife is thrust, the axe is falling, the fist is flying, or the bullet is on its’ way to the target before being able to legally act in self defense. I believe there is Supreme Court precedent that understand one cannot judge another while the victim is under the threat of an uplifted knife. Add to this the fact that these… Read more »