CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia residents are now free to carry a gun hidden or in plain site when they move about the Mountain State. The new conceal carry act which won approval earlier this year at the legislature took effect Tuesday. Under the new law a government issued conceal carry permit is no longer necessary to pack a firearm under your clothing or in a purse in West Virginia for those over the age of 21.
“Really, what this does is change the way people can exercise their Second Amendment rights in the way they see fit,” said Amy Hunter from the National Rifle Association. “They can still get a permit if they want.”
Some probably will since the permit is necessary to carry a concealed firearm in another state which has a reciprocity agreement with West Virginia. Permits also remain necessary for those between the ages of 18 and 21 who wish to carry a concealed gun. Obtaining a permit requires applicants to go through a firearms safety training course. Hunter said the course is still a good idea, but the Second Amendment advocacy organization opposed a requirement for it by the government.
“There’s no other organization that advocates for training more. We feel really strongly about firearms training, responsible use of firearms, and responsible storage of firearms. We offer that training,” said Hunter. “But we don’t think it should be government mandated.”
Laws still apply for a prohibition on carrying firearms into public places like schools, courthouses, prisons, or the state capitol complex in Charleston. Hunter said the law also did not change the control of store owners to decide whether patrons could be armed in their establishment.
“This law now means those who want to can do so under a coat, under a jacket, or in a purse, without first having to get specialized government permission.”
West Virginia Sheriff’s Association fought the bill at the state capitol when it was debated, but Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner, who is the president of the organization, says now that it’s law that fight is over.
“We did oppose it while it was being debated and hoped our opposition would have influence with the legislators,” Tanner said. “However, all sheriffs took an oath to uphold all of the laws of the state of West Virginia and all are in agreement we are honor bound to uphold this new law.”
Tanner said he still thinks the measure puts his deputies and all law enforcement at greater risk. Hunter disagreed.
“Officers can still check and see if somebody is prohibited from carrying a firearm,” Hunter said. “And then criminals aren’t carrying permits anyway.”