Brandishing is defined by Merriam-Webster as to shake or wave (something such as a weapon) menacingly or exhibit in an ostentatious or aggressive manner. In most states, “brandishing” is not a legally defined term. In fact, only five states (Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia and West Virginia) currently have laws on the books that directly reference brandishing. When it comes to concealed carry, many states have their own definitions and may refer to brandishing as “Defensive Display,” “Improper Exhibition of a Weapon” or “Unlawful Display.” Actions from resting your hand on the grip of your pistol or knife or sweeping your cover garment aside to expose your concealed carry weapon may be considered brandishing.
It is important to understand that the lack of a formal legal definition of brandishing does not mean that brandishing a firearm, whether accidentally or with the intention of intimidating, will not result in criminal charges. Brandishing a firearm may fall under other state laws, such as aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, improper use of a firearm, menacing, intimidating or disorderly conduct. Criminal legal consequences may vary from misdemeanor citations to felony charges based on the state or jurisdiction that you are in and the specifics of your particular incident. Depending on your state, additional penalties may incur if your brandishing incident occurs in the presence of a law enforcement officer, public official or emergency medical responder.
Brandishing laws are complicated, so if you have any questions regarding where and when you may or may not display a firearm, consult with an attorney who is familiar with firearms laws in your area.