RICHMOND VIRGINIA –-(Ammoland.com)- There has been a lot of uproar on social media and gun websites about Virginia’s new mask requirements that Governor Northam implemented through executive order due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Memes and messages have littered my social media feeds and inboxes claiming that these new mask requirements stop otherwise law-abiding Virginia citizens from carrying a firearm while wearing a mask.
There also have been plenty of articles claiming everything from these mask requirements being a gray area in the Virginia law to it is an automatic felony for anyone who dared to wear a mask while carrying a firearm. With people spreading so much confusion and misinformation about the Governor’s executive order on mask and firearms, I decided to reach out to Virginia attorneys (specializing in gun laws) and law enforcement officers to get the truth about the legality of carrying a gun while wearing a mask.
First, let’s look at the Virginia anti-mask law. The anti-mask statute is 18.2-422. It doesn’t ban the wearing of all masks, as some people claim. It only forbids the wearing of mask WITH THE INTENT TO CONCEAL YOUR IDENTITY. This clause is the reason why you can wear a mask to protect or face from the elements during the harsh winter months. The law exists to prevent a criminal from using a mask to conceal their identity while committing a crime such as a bank robbery.
Furthermore, the statute lays out a few built-in exceptions to the anti-mask law. It allows a person to wear a mask for medical reasons. Wearing a mask to prevent COVID-19 is an exception to the rule for a medical reason. It also states that a Governor’s emergency declaration will waive the statute. Since Northam issued an emergency declaration, he technically waived the law automatically. This law does not even mention guns at all. Also, if it did and you are not trying to hide your identity, doing it for medical reasons, or in response to the Governor’s emergency declaration, then you would be exempt from following the statute.
The Virginia concealed carry provisions are 18.2-308 et seq. The wearing of masks while being armed is not mentioned once anywhere in the statute. There is nothing in this provision that would cause the mask-wearing gun owner from running afoul of the law. You can wear a mask and carry a gun.
Indeed, as many online have claimed, Executive Order 63 (the mask EO) didn’t expressly waive the provisions of 18.2-422, but Governor Northam didn’t need to reject the statute. He did waive it anyway, but just not in EO 63. He waived the anti-mask rule in Executive Order 53. Even if Northam didn’t waive the anti-mask statute (he did), gun owners still wouldn’t be breaking the law while carrying a gun and wearing a mask.
After consulting with multiple lawyers and police officers from across the Commonwealth, AmmoLand has not been able to find any Virginia statute which makes it a crime to carry a gun while wearing a mask.
The bottom line is that carrying a firearm while wearing a medical mask in Virginia is not against the law. There is not a gray area in the statute. It is black and white.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC, and is the co-host of The Patriot-News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.