Join me for a moment in considering Myers v. Commonwealth. Myers is a recent SCOVA opinion reversing a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon in a zippered backpack on the floor of the passenger seat of his car. The relevant statute, Code § 18.2-308, generally bars carrying a concealed weapon but carves out several exceptions.
The exception relevant here, subsection C(8), provides that the statute does not apply to “[a]ny person who may lawfully possess a firearm and is carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel and such handgun is secured in a container or compartment in the vehicle or vessel.”
So the question presented in Myers was whether a handgun in a zippered backpack was “secured.”
The Court agreed with an earlier opinion out of the Court of Appeals determining that “secured,” as used in the statute, captures a broader category than “locked”: “It necessarily follows that a weapon in a locked container will be secured, but a secured weapon need not be in a locked container.”
SCOVA also agreed with CAV that “secured” is not the same as “closed,” because to be secured a container must be latched or otherwise fastened.
This brings us to my favorite part of the opinion. Justice Kelsey notes in passing that the CAV’s understanding of the term “secured” comports with “most dictionary definitions.” And what does he cite in support?
See, e.g., 2 Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1756) (defining “[t]o secure” as “[t]o make fast” (altering archaic spelling)); 2 Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) (defining “[s]ecured” as “made fast”); Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language 1911 (W.T. Harris & F. Sturges Allen eds., 1930) (defining “secure” as “[i]n safe keeping or possession; secured,” “[t]o make fast; to close or confine effectually,” or “[t]o be fastened or secured”); The American Heritage Dictionary 1109 (2d College ed. 1985) (defining “secure” as “[w]ell-fastened” or “[n]ot likely to fail or give way; stable”); Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 2053 (Philip Babcock Gove ed., 2002) (defining “secure” as “to make fast” or “tie down”).
You know you’re getting the deep cuts when you come across a parenthetical “altering archaic spelling.” Someone clearly did their homework. I probably would have gone with Webster’s Third and called it a day, especially given that
I am lazy subsection C(8) dates back only to 2010. But I respect the effort and I especially respect that collection of dictionaries.
Chapeau, Justice Kelsey (and/or clerks).