Concealed Carry in West Virginia State
Early in 2016, West Virginia concealed carry laws were disrupted by a legislative battle over House Bill 4145 after it was passed in both chambers and was soon thereafter vetoed by Governor Ray Tomblin.
In what the NRA said was "unprecedented in its path to eventual enactment," Tomblin's veto on the bill was overridden by both the Senate and House, passing the bill and allowing those in West Virginia to carry concealed without a license, no matter which state a U.S. citizen resides in.
There are important caveats, however, when considering how to carry firearms in the state.
How Permitless West Virginia Concealed Carry Works
Carrying a handgun and complying with West Virginia concealed carry regulations is fairly straightforward.
One must be at least 21 years old to carry, be “non-prohibited” and follow all applicable state and federal laws, such as location restrictions.
Non-prohibited persons are defined in W. Va. Code § 61-7-7 and are those who classify under restrictions on illegal citizenship, felony charges, domestic violence convictions, misdemeanor offenses related to assault and battery, controlled substance abuse and conviction, alcohol addiction, mental incompetence adjudication, involuntary commitment to a mental institution, those under the age of 21, those dishonorably discharged from the military and other federal ( 18 U.S. C. §922(g) or (n) ) and state restrictions.
Carrying a firearm as a "non-prohibited" person will result in a felony offense including a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment for no more than three years. As this isn't legal advice, research state laws and contact local authorities about specific questions.
However, if one does qualify to carry a firearm, the right to carry it is generally unrestricted, but do take into consideration various restrictions like location prohibitions (listed below).
A firearm may be kept concealed or openly on the person, in a home, in a place of business and on real property.
There is a strange gray area, though, isn't there? — 18-21 year-old adults are not recognized by the constitutional carry parameters.
Though they certainly may have mixed feelings about the age restriction, this demographic does have a way to get ahold of a concealed handgun license and carry during that three-year time span.
Why West Virginia Concealed Carry Permits Are Still Relevant
It may seem counter-intuitive to get ahold of a West Virginia concealed carry permit, but it does have legitimate value.
There are two primary classes of concealed handgun licenses (CHL) in the state — optional and provisional.
The provisional handgun license is for 18-21 year-old state residents wanting to carry concealed weapons, and it expires the day they turn 21. The issuing authority (one's county sheriff) must issue a license within 45 days after the application, fees ($25 to the sheriff's office and $15 to the West Virginia State Police) and proof of handgun safety training (including a live fire component) are submitted.
The applicant, of course, must qualify according to prohibitions (see above). This CHL only qualifies carrying a pistol or revolver, not any other deadly weapon.
There are exceptions, however, for those in this three-year age group. The restriction on 18-21 year olds do not apply if they are...
- Carrying a weapon on their own premises
- Carrying a firearm from a place of purchase to a home or to and from home to a location that repairs firearms
- Traveling to and from, as well as carrying and lawfully using it during, hunting
- A member of an organized, legally recognized target-shooting club and are using a weapon for target practice
- Law enforcement officers and officials and chief executives
- A West Virginia Division of Corrections appointed employee
- A member of the U.S. Armed Forces
- A permit-holding resident of another state that shares reciprocity with West Virginia
- A federal law-enforcement officer authorized to carry a weapon
- A parole officer
Additionally, as long as the handgun is acquired legally and the 18-21 year old follows all other restrictions and state regulations, they may carry their firearm unconcealed without a permit or license, according to the 2016 guide to concealed handgun laws published by the office of the West Virginia attorney general.
The optional concealed handgun license is for those 21 years old or older who would like to carry their handgun while traveling out of state somewhere in the U.S. that recognizes the West Virginia permit. This CHL also allows one to store a handgun in a locked vehicle on the Capitol Complex.
Something particularly noteworthy: an optional CHL issued on or after June 4, 2014 is recognized as an alternative to a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check.
The optional CHL has a similar application process, but with increased fees ($75 to the sheriff when applying and $25 to the state police when issued the license). It expires after 5 years, but may be renewed with one's respective county sheriff.
Both CHLs grant reciprocity with states West Virginia has agreements with.
West Virginia Concealed Carry Reciprocity Benefits With A Permit
A valid CHL will grant access to West Virginia's concealed carry reciprocity agreements with other states.
It's important to note, however, that even with a CHL, a traveling West Virginian must abide by the gun laws wherever their destination may be.
This is particularly important for provisional CHL holders, given that many states have a 21-year-old age requirement. There are also location restrictions and other similar regulations to take into consideration.
Just over 20 states recognize only the optional CHL. About 16 recognize both the optional and provisional. Other permitless carry states are included in those numbers. Be sure to analyze specific states with a concealed handgun reciprocity map.
Although it may seem random at first glance, Wisconsin only recognizes optional licenses issued after June 8, 2012.
As previously stated, nonresidents may travel without a permit to West Virginia with their handgun.
West Virginians should contact other states' authorities about any firearms regulations they need to be aware of before traveling with firearms.
Those traveling to West Virginia, and even the state's residents, should be aware of this state's location restrictions.
Where West Virginia Gun Laws Prohibit Firearms
Be sure not to carry in a few locations throughout the state, as West Virginia gun laws do list forbidden areas.
- These are:
- Federal property and locations restricted by federal law, including areas like restricted portions of airports
- Any real property where the owner, lessee or whoever is charged to care for the location prohibits firearms on location, but it isn't illegal to bring weapons onto the property an owner forbids firearms on, it's illegal to refuse to relinquish the weapon or refuse to the leave the location after asked (that will result in a misdemeanor with a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in prison)
- The State Capitol Complex — but there are the previously described exceptions for CHL holders
- Jails, detention facilities and State Division of Corrections facilities
- County courthouses and any buildings with a court inside
- School buses, school-sponsored functions and any public or private school building, facility or grounds — unless the firearm is unloaded and carried in a non-prohibited person's motor vehicle or is left unloaded in a locked vehicle
- Buildings and locations restricted by local law and municipal codes
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About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.