FORT LEE, Va. -- Under Virginia law, individuals cannot carry certain concealed weapons in public without a permit.

The concealed weapons law relates primarily to firearms, but also includes other weapons, such as knives, throwing stars, metal knuckles and other items intended to cause injury during a physical altercation.

Even if the weapon is visible, it may be considered concealed if it is not readily identifiable as a weapon. As an example, some firearms are manufactured to look like flashlights, keychains and even small radios. These are clearly prohibited.

It is important to note that Virginia law regarding firearms is not applicable while you are on a federal installation. Concealed carry of a firearm is prohibited on Fort Lee and there are special rules regarding registering, storing and transporting firearms.

If you are interested in applying for a Virginia concealed handgun permit, you may apply in writing to the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you reside. You can download an application from the Virginia State Police website. If your application is approved and you are issued a permit, you are required to keep it with you, along with a form of government issued identification, whenever carrying your concealed firearm. Thirty-four states honor Virginia permits, including four of its neighbors: North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

However, if you plan on travelling outside of Virginia with your concealed firearm, you should contact the appropriate state agency to determine whether or not it has reciprocity with Virginia. Many times, the state police will be able to provide you with this information.

Regardless of the discussion above, Virginia law does allow an individual to transport a handgun (loaded or unloaded) within the state, without a concealed permit, as long as it is kept in a secured container or compartment within the vehicle. Recently, the Virginia Attorney General issued an opinion which clarified that a closed container or compartment is considered secured, even if it is unlocked. Therefore, a handgun can lawfully be transported in a closed but unlocked glove compartment.

If you are the subject of a traffic stop and have a firearm in the vehicle, whether concealed on your person (with the proper permit), in a secured container, or elsewhere in the vehicle, Virginia law does not require you to notify the law enforcement officer about the firearm. It is advisable, however, to do so at the outset. Tell the officer about the weapon in a non-threatening manner, while keeping your hands visible at all times. Verbally notify the officer of the firearm’s location, without pointing, reaching, or otherwise gesturing toward it. Finally, wait for the officer’s instructions on what to do next. These best practices should help you remain safe if you have a firearm in your vehicle during a traffic stop.