Weapons of Opportunity: When You Can’t Reach Your Gun… | Virginia

Often, we hear from older members who have purchased a firearm for self-defense and safely store it in the home. Frequently, it’s hidden away from any wandering eyes in preparation for surprise visits from the grandchildren. While I am a huge advocate of safe storage, in an emergency this can also mean all the preparation and training becomes irrelevant if there is no time to access the gun.

What can senior members keep around as weapons of opportunity? What items could they keep on hand that are easier to access in an emergency?


The first is a heavy flashlight. For years, Maglite style flashlights have been used by police because of the ability to be used as a club, if needed. For anyone, including elderly people, a flashlight is a wonderful tool to keep around the house. Not only can a flashlight be used in case of power outages, but it can also be used to blind an intruder or even strike them as a last resort.

Readily accessible flashlights, as compared to firearms, also decrease the risk of injury if children are visiting. Unlike leaving weapons in locations accessible to children, there are no crimes in Virginia relating to children accessing flashlights.


Another option for elderly people is to consider what type of cane they have. A stout cane can be kept close at hand. It is a fearsome defensive tool which can pass by in public unnoticed. Historically, some firearms were incorporated into canes, but this practice is NOT what I am referring to. Cane guns are highly regulated under the NFA. Instead, I am talking about a good old-fashioned heavy-duty walking stick. With some training, a cane can be turned into a defensive weapon which crooks don’t want to mess with. For this option, consider either a metal or heavy solid wood cane.

Both flashlights and canes are not necessarily deadly weapons, but they can rapidly cross the legal threshold depending on how they are used. Virginia cases discussing what counts as a deadly weapon do not list specific items. However, they focus on the manner in which a tool or instrument is used. Striking someone with a flashlight or cane could, depending on the manner of the strike and number of hits, count as deadly force in certain scenarios.

Pepper Spray

Lastly, another option for a convenient self-defense tool is a can of pepper spray. Pepper spray is generally regarded as non-lethal technology.  While still very dangerous, pepper spray won’t usually result in mortality. Unlike keeping a firearm in a spot where a child can access it, while perhaps imprudent, it is generally not a crime to keep pepper spray in a location where children may find it.

For the sake of convenience, pepper spray is often kept on a key chain. As a reminder, there are many locations, like airports and courthouses, where your keys are allowed, but pepper spray isn’t. If you choose pepper spray for home defense, I highly recommend seeking out a training class on using pepper spray defensively.

For any other questions on self-defense laws, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

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