Constitutional Carry: What it does and does not do

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The legislature over the weekend passed an override of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of the Constitutional Carry legislation. The override means the bill becomes law without the governor’s signature and will take effect June 5.

Advocates of the legislation however are cautioning everyone to take a close look at the law before sliding a pistol into their pocket.  Although the bill loosens the restrictions for carrying a concealed firearm, it tightens the screws on those who are in violation.

“This bill adds very stiff penalties to the violation of gun laws and gun crimes,” said Keith Morgan, President of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Morgan appeared on MetroNews Talkline Monday hoping to clear up a lot of misconceptions about what the new law actually said. He claimed there was a lot of misinformation about the bill which could wind up getting somebody into a lot of trouble.

The legislation allowed for those between the ages of 18 and 20 to carry a concealed firearm after they have completed an approved safety course and successfully been issued a conceal carry permit by their county sheriff’s office.  However, Morgan noted, that’s for a gun only.

“They can carry a concealed handgun, but they need to understand though that other deadly weapons they cannot,” said Morgan. “It will be a very serious charge if somebody is for example carrying a concealed pocket knife with a blade longer than three and a half inches.”

The measure also addressed any other type weapon such as brass knuckles.  The legislation actually elevated the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony and is punishable by 10 years in prison. Furthermore, the new law did not allow for those between 18 and 21 to buy a gun over the counter.

“It will be an heirloom type situation or family type situation,” Morgan said. “They cannot go to an FFL license dealer and purchase a handgun.”

For those 21 and over, come June 5th you can carry a concealed handgun without a permit within the state of West Virginia.  Morgan added however, all of those who are presently excluded from carrying a gun are still excluded.

“This isn’t just anybody.  You cannot be a prohibited person,” he said. “That whole list stays the same.  You cannot be a convicted felon, convicted of domestic violence, addicted to drugs, adjudicated mentally defective, etc. ect.  All of that still applies.”

Furthermore, the legislation allowed for the conceal carry provision within the borders of West Virginia only.  Reciprocity agreements remain in place with 38 other states and you will still need a West Virginia conceal carry permit to exercise your rights in the other states.

“You will be arrested without a license across the Ohio River.  If you go into Ohio without a West Virginia license you will be committing a crime and they will lock you up for it,” Morgan noted.

Although the training would no longer be a requirement after June 5th, Morgan said his organization still encouraged anyone who plans to carry a gun to take the course anyway.   It will also be required if you need to get the permit to carry a gun in another state.

Taking the training and obtaining the permit will also earn you a West Virginia state tax credit of $50.  The measure was amended into the bill as an incentive for people to still get the license even if it is not required.  The tax credit provision survived the legislative process and will remain part of the law.

One of the key fears of those opposed to the measure was out-of-state residents who will bring guns into West Virginia.  Morgan said the law did allow for anyone from out-of-state to be armed without a conceal carry permit, however, if that person engaged in criminal activity with the concealed firearm they will not only face charges for the crime they’ve committed, but the new law added an additional sentence of up to 10 years in prison for committing a crime with a gun.

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