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West Virginia Gun Laws

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Introduction

West Virginia is surrounded by Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia. Due to the positioning of the state, it is often included in multiple regions of the U.S., including the South and the Mid-Atlantic. Open carry is legal in West Virginia at age 18 even without a license to carry.

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A. State Constitution

Regarding the right to bear arms, the West Virginia Constitution states:

“A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use.”

[http://gunla.ws/wv1]

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B. Scope of Preemption

The controlling language of West Virginia’s preemption statute is set forth as follows:

“(a) …Neither a municipality nor the governing body of any municipality may limit the right of any person to purchase, possess, transfer, own, carry, transport, sell or store any revolver, pistol, rifle or shotgun or any ammunition or ammunition components to be used therewith nor to so regulate the keeping of gunpowder so as to directly or indirectly prohibit the ownership of the ammunition.”

[http://gunla.ws/wv2]

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C. Reciprocal Carry

West Virginia allows anyone 21 or older to carry a handgun without a permit, concealed or openly. West Virginia now allows adults between the ages of 18-20 to apply for a provisional concealed carry permit, which requires applicants to undergo firearms training, unless applicants are 21 and up.

By statute, West Virginia will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes West Virginia’s license:

“A holder of a valid out-of-state permit or license to carry a concealed handgun, as issued by another state with which the State of West Virginia has executed a reciprocity agreement, shall be recognized as valid in this state, if the following conditions are met: (1) The permit or license holder is 21 years or older; (2) The permit or license is in his or her immediate possession; (3) The permit or license holder is not a resident of the State of West Virginia; and, (4) The State of West Virginia has executed a valid and effective reciprocity agreement with the issuing state pertaining to the carrying and verification of concealed handgun licenses and permits issued in the respective states.  (b) A holder of a valid permit or license from another state who is authorized to carry a concealed handgun in this state pursuant to provisions of this section is subject to the same laws and restrictions with respect to carrying a concealed handgun as a resident of West Virginia who is so permitted, and must carry the concealed handgun in compliance with the laws of this state.” [http://gunla.ws/wv3]

Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the West Virginia AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur. West Virginia’s reciprocity agreement can be viewed online. [http://gunla.ws/wv4]

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D. NFA Items

West Virginia permits ownership of all NFA items, provided they are legally obtained pursuant to federal law. It is legal to use suppressors for hunting. CLEOs are required to sign an application for the transfer of any item regulated under the NFA within 30 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving it. [http://gunla.ws/pvpc]

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E. Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

West Virginia permits anyone who may legally possess a firearm to carry it unloaded in a motor vehicle, provided it is clearly visible from the outside. From July 1 to September 30 each year, unloaded guns must also be secured in a case when carried during certain times of the day. [http://gunla.ws/wv5]

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F. Self-defense Laws

West Virginia has both Castle Doctrine and SYG laws.  There is no duty to retreat from anywhere You have a legal right to be. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, or to stop the unlawful & forcible entry into Your dwelling if You reasonably believe the intruder intends to harm an occupant or commit a felony inside the dwelling.

[http://gunla.ws/wv6]

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G. Constitutional Carry

As of 5/24/16, West Virginia now permits anyone who is at least 21 years old and not prohibited from owning a firearm to carry a handgun without a permit, openly or concealed. Possession and open carry of handguns is legal at age 18, but adults between the ages of 18 and 21 must obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed firearm. Persons under the age of 18 may carry on family premises or on other property with permission of the owner or lessee.

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H. Criminal Provisions

Under West Virginia law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances:

  • Brandish or use a firearm in a way or manner to cause, or threaten, a breach of the peace
  • On any school bus
  • State capital complex
  • Courthouse
  • Jails, detention facilities or State Division of Corrections facilities
  • A public or private elementary or secondary education building, grounds, structure, or facility, or at any school-sponsored function, unless carry is necessary for a valid educational purpose with permission from the board of education or principal or if You are dropping off or picking up students (firearm must not leave the vehicle) [http://gunla.ws/5qnc]
  • Where the owner, or lessee of private property has prohibited the carrying of any firearm

For a list of places where carrying firearms is prohibited, see:

[http://gunla.ws/wv7]

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I. Duty to Inform Officers

No. While carrying a firearm, You must have your license/permit in Your immediate possession and must display it upon request from a LEO. [http://gunla.ws/bv5s]

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J. Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?

No. “No Firearms” signs in West Virgina do not have the force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in state law as being off limits to those with a permit/license to carry. However, as a possessor with a real property interest, a retailer, has the right to limit, and qualify the right to enter the property, subject to not carrying a handgun. It would be improper to enter, and the licensee would be subject to ejection for possession of a handgun thereat. Failure to leave once requested would subject the licensee to criminal charges.

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K. Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes. West Virginia has no law prohibiting the carrying of a firearm into establishments that serve alcohol. However, if the owner or manager of the establishment requests that You disarm or leave, You must do so. Failure to obey such signs or verbal warnings constitutes trespass.

[http://gunla.ws/d56t]

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L. Open Carry

Open carry is legal. A permit to carry is available, but is not required to carry a handgun either openly or concealed. Places as listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above apply to those who open carry. The minimum age for open carry is 18. [http://gunla.ws/z1o3]

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More