A friend of mine used to keep a loaded revolver on the coffee table in his apartment. Because he had plenty of valuable property to protect, some legal, some not, the reason for the gun was obvious. But I was curious, so I asked him, “Why keep it on the coffee table?”
He explained that you can’t just shoot someone for breaking into your home in Virginia. But if the trespasser knows the gun is there, and you shoot him, your self-defense case will be strong.
This makes sense under the common law, which is the basis of jurisprudence in Virginia. Generally speaking, you have an absolute right to defend your home and property. Furthermore, you can use deadly force when it is reasonable to do so. The question becomes, When is it reasonable to use deadly force?
According to my friend, Virginia assumes it is more reasonable to use deadly force to prevent trespass when the trespasser knows there is a real risk that deadly force will be used to prevent the crime. The explanation is that the crime victim normally has a duty to retreat from the use of deadly force, but that duty is nullified when the victim has cause to believe that retreat is not feasible or that retreat will not alleviate a potentially deadly threat.
Put another way, when the potential use of deadly force to prevent a crime is known to the criminal and that knowledge fails to deter the commission of the crime, then the use of deadly force may be excused.
I have no idea how well my friend understood the law, but he did grow up next door to a Norfolk judge. He probably asked for advice before moving into the apartment where he kept his handgun in plain sight.