A Guide to West Virginia Gun Laws
Overview of West Virginia Gun Laws
West Virginia law makes it one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, with very minimal restrictions concerning permits and licenses. West Virginia doesn’t require a Concealed Carry permit for anyone over the age of 21. Although, for those between 18 and 21 years of age, a provisional license is required to conceal a weapon in public. As a Shall Issue state, local authorities will process and distribute permits to anyone who meets the specified qualifications.
West Virginia does not hold any assault weapon bans or high capacity magazine bans. Also, there are no forced waiting periods when purchasing a gun. Certain people are prohibited from possessing a firearm, among the list include anyone convicted of certain domestic violence crimes. West Virginia law does allow for those prohibited due to mental health reasons to petition for renewed eligibility through local circuit courts.
Extreme Risk protection orders, aka Red Flag Law, are being discussed in West Virginia but no legislation is forthcoming as of 2020. This law allows the courts to temporarily disarm someone who is perceived as a threat to others or themselves. Understandably, the state is concerned about disarming citizens, but this becomes a hot button issue after any major gun crime.
*Please note this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Also, be sure to consult with an attorney if you have any legal questions.*
West Virginia Concealed Carry Gun Laws
In 2016, it became legal for residents to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in public without a license. Further, the person must be over 21, legally able to possess a handgun, and be a US citizen/ legal resident. The process to apply for a CHL is somewhat extensive. The applicant must supply proof of firearm training, extensive state and NICS background checks, proof of residency, and be over the age of 18. It may be worth going through the trouble of getting the license, as many states will recognize and honor the West Virginia CHL. This official site has a great map and FAQ section that is regularly updated.
Additionally, the CHL will allow the holder to bypass the required NICS background check when purchasing a gun. West Virginia law does not require background checks by private or local vendors. Although, Federally licensed gun dealers are required by law to go through the NICS database (via the FBI) at the point of sale.
Self Defense Gun Laws
West Virginia’s self-defense laws are strong and very clear. Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground are upheld, no Duty to Retreat. This allows for legally defensible use of deadly force against an intruder in one’s property. Although, it is not legal to use deadly force in a response to a non-deadly attack. Further, this Handgun Safety Course study guide is an excellent resource for understanding state defense laws.
Official “Stand Your Ground” Guidelines:
A citizen in West Virginia holds the right to defend themselves and no duty to retreat. A person has the right to use deadly force if they are unlawfully and forcefully attacked in their own residence, dwelling, or vehicle. For example, a residence may include tents or porches. And, an invited house-guest may lethally defend themselves from a violent intruder.
Open Carry and Constitutional Carry Laws
Constitutional Carry is the right to carry a handgun (open or concealed) without a permit or license. While Open Carry is the right to carry any firearm where others can see it. West Virginia is a Constitutional Carry state- allowing anyone over the age of 21 to carry firearms freely. Although, there are location restrictions that include municipal buildings and school buildings.
FAQ about WV Gun Laws:
- Can I carry a gun in my car in West Virginia?
Yes. A person may carry an unloaded and unconcealed ( or secured in your trunk). If you have a resident CHL, you may carry a concealed handgun in the car with you.
“ If you choose to carry an unconcealed handgun in your vehicle and are stopped by a law enforcement officer, you must understand that that the weapon will immediately attract the attention of the police officer. The presence of the weapon may lead to action by the officer to ensure his or her safety such as the drawing of his or her weapon, ordering you from the vehicle, and/or performing a pat-down search.”- West Virginia State Police
- Are there any gun restrictions in West Virginia?
No. Aside from Federal restrictions, there aren’t any weapons bans active in West Virginia as of 2020.
- I’m from another state, what CWP’s (Concealed Weapons Permit) will West Virginia Honor?
As of 2020, the following states honor the West Virginia CHL:
- NEW HAMPSHIRE
- NEW MEXICO
- NORTH CAROLINA
- NORTH DAKOTA
- SOUTH CAROLINA
- SOUTH DAKOTA