Highland County Sheriff Discusses Concealed Weapons Laws
Gun laws vary greatly from state to state, and they seem to be constantly changing, which can create confusing situations, especially in our area, where frequent travel back and forth across state lines is common. To help listeners understand the current laws better, we spoke with Highland County Sheriff David Neil, who began by explaining the current status of open and concealed carry in Virginia and West Virginia.
Sheriff Neil says, “In the state of Virginia, you can open carry. You can open carry a gun. I mean, as long as it’s out in plain view, there’s nothing that law enforcement can do about it. Any weapon, concealed handgun laying in a vehicle – you know it’s easily done, you know if you lay it on the seat and your coat’s over top of it. If law enforcement stops you, and it’s laying under that coat, it’s considered a concealed weapon. In West Virginia, it’s my understanding now if you’re a resident of West Virginia, you don’t have to have a concealed weapon permit at all in West Virginia, but if you cross state lines, then you’ve got to have a concealed weapons permit.”
Many participating states have “reciprocity” agreements for concealed weapons permits, which he explained. Sheriff Neil says, “All that is, is an agreement, a mutual agreement, between states that honor each other’s concealed weapons permits. But to travel from state to state, if they were to come in to Virginia, they’ve still got to have a concealed weapons permit. The state of Virginia recognizes, honors concealed weapons permits from most of the United States. There are a few exceptions out there. I know California is one, and New York, and there are a few other states that do not honor Virginia’s concealed weapons permits, but most states, like I say, in the United States, do. If you’re going to be traveling, I tell everybody to check with the states that they’re going to be traveling through just to double-check, make sure laws haven’t changed.”
Sheriff Neil recommended the website www.usacarry.com as a good resource for checking laws in individual states. He also cautioned that just having gotten a concealed weapons permit isn’t enough. He says, “What a lot of people don’t understand is they’ve got the concealed weapons permit, but you’ve got to carry that card with you. It’s an offense if anyone in law enforcement stops – if you’ve got a concealed weapon, you’re supposed to have the permit with you, it’s a photo i.d., and you can be fined if you don’t have that with you.”
And even with the permit, concealed weapons are not allowed everywhere. Sheriff Neil says, “There are six basic places in the state of Virginia that you can’t carry a concealed weapon: bars, if you’re consuming alcohol, hospitals, considered a gun-free zone, schools, government buildings, airplanes, and gun-free businesses. Anybody that operates a business in the Commonwealth, if they so desire to post, but they’ve got to post it that there are no firearms allowed on premises, then they’re not allowed to take that gun in there on private business.”
I asked Sheriff Neil if there were any restrictions on having loaded weapons in vehicles. He says, “As far as I know right now in Highland County, there’s no law against that, other than if you’re on National Forest or State lands, it’s prohibited. You cannot have a loaded weapon, or even shells in your magazine, which a lot of people don’t understand.”
Individuals interested in gaining a concealed weapons permit must have taken a hunter’s safety course, and must apply for the permit at the Clerk of the Court’s office. Following that, a background check is undertaken, and the final approval is done by a judge. Sheriff Neil said he is looking into the possibility of holding concealed carry classes in Highland.