Carrying a Concealed Handgun in WV without A License – Soon to be allowed
The WV House overrode the Governor’s veto of House Bill 4145 by a 64-33 vote on Friday March 4th and the Senate followed suit on the following day by a 23-11 vote, making WV become one of eight states that allow concealed carry without a license. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Vermont, and Wyoming are so-called constitutional carry states. In Wyoming, the law applies to residents only.
Almost everyone knows of this bill. That when it takes effect on May 26, 2016, it legalizes the carrying of a concealed handgun in WV without the need to first obtain a concealed carry license and without first receiving the handgun training required to obtain the license. Yet, most people do not know the full story of what this bill allows, doesn’t allow and changes.
Although I am a retired law enforcement officer, I am not a lawyer, so you should not take anything from this story as being legal advice, but it is simply research I have done on this bill to clarify what the bill means.
There have been a number of rumors and opinions about the effect of the bill.
RUMOR: I have heard people say that because this bill takes away the ability to obtain a concealed carry license, West Virginians will no longer have the legal ability to carry their concealed weapons in other states that have reciprocal agreements to honor WV concealed carry licenses in their states, Virginia, for example.
TRUTH: The bill still allows those who may want the option of carrying in those 30 or so other states that honor WV concealed carry licenses, may still obtain or renew their WV concealed carry licenses, but you will still have to pay the same fee to your local sheriff, still undergo the same background and have the same training requirements as was in effect before this law passed. Please note, that if you choose to carry concealed under the new law in WV without obtaining a concealed carry license, you cannot legally carry a concealed handgun in Virginia or most of the other states that recognize WV concealed carry licenses.
RUMOR: The new bill allows just anyone to carry a concealed weapon.
TRUTH: No, the new bill only allows people over the age of 21 who are not disqualified from possessing a handgun under existing State or Federal law from carrying a concealed handgun. The new law retains the criminal penalties for someone who is lawfully prohibited from possessing a handgun but does so anyway. It does, though, allow residents of other states to carry without a license in WV, provided they are not prohibited by State of Federal law.
RUMOR: The new bill allows people less than 21 years of age to carry a concealed handgun.
TRUTH: This is partially true. The new bill established a new “Provisional” concealed carry License for people 18 through 20 years of age. Those people will need to obtain concealed carry training and must apply for the provisional concealed carry license and undergo a background check as well. They must be lawfully allowed to possess a handgun under State and Federal law. Under the old law, a person 18-20 years old could only obtain a concealed carry license if they were required by their employer to carry a concealed handgun. It is probable that the legislature felt that anyone old enough to go into combat with the military should be able to carry concealed with proper training and background checks. It should be noted that one of the principal sponsors of this bill in the WV legislature was 19 year old Delegate Saira Blair who said she has received death threats because of her political position. Before this bill passed, she could not obtain a concealed carry license to protect herself. It is not known if other states will accept these provisional licenses – that will probably be on a state by state basis.
Other concerns about the bill are that people over 21 are no longer required to take a handgun safety and concealed carry course with a certified instructor which involves actually handling, loading and firing guns at a range, as well classes about the lawful times deadly force can be used and when it should not be used. Simple things like not putting your finger in the trigger guard until you are actually going to fire the weapon. However, the bill does provide a tax credit for up to $50.00 if you spend that on such training.
Of course, people who carried their handguns openly without obtaining a license before this law were not required to receive the training. Others would argue that most rural WV residents have taken hunter safety courses and handled guns since they were children, but none of that can adequately prepare you for a sudden need to use a gun to defend your life. So, let me give one opinion here, if you intend to take advantage of this law, remember it will not protect you from arrest if you have a criminal record, a domestic abuse conviction, a restraining order, a mental health issue or any other issue that would make it unlawful for you to possess a handgun under state or federal law.
I would also strongly urge you to obtain the proper training through a certified concealed carry course even though the law does not require it. You could lose everything you own in a lawsuit if you use deadly force when it is not legally justified, and the law is complicated. I hope this answers some of your questions about the new law.