WHEELING, W.Va. — Effective today, West Virginia residents at least 21 years of age may carry concealed handguns without permits.
The Republican-led Legislature approved the legislation, House Bill 4145, on Feb. 24. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, vetoed the bill on March 3, but lawmakers overrode his veto two days later, on March 5.
The so-called “constitutional carry” provision has some law enforcement and government officials shaking their heads in disbelief.
“The message I would like to relay is that this new law is not providing someone a wide open, blanket carry privilege,” Wheeling police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said. “Several places remain restricted or prohibited from carrying. These include any real property where the owner does not allow it, federal government properties, county courthouses and any school bus, school facility or function.”
“West Virginia’s law enforcement officers have dedicated their lives to keeping us safe and helping us in times of need, and Gov. Tomblin finds it disheartening that the members of the Legislature have chosen not to stand with these brave men and women putting their safety and the safety of West Virginians at risk,” Chris Stadelman, Tomblin’s spokesman, said. “It’s unfortunate that the concerns of officers from every law enforcement branch in the state, including the West Virginia State Police and university campus police officers, have been ignored by the Legislature’s action.”
Those 18 to 20 years of age will be required to take a safety course and obtain a permit for concealed carry. Mountain State residents travelling to other states still must have a West Virginia permit to carry a handgun there. Those denied possession of a firearm for criminal charges, substance abuse or other reasons are restricted from concealed carry as well.
The main concern, according to Ohio County Sheriff Patrick Butler, is that without documentation, officers will not know who is legally carrying a concealed weapon and who is doing so illegally.
As part of the new law, there are benefits to obtaining a permit even though it is not mandatory. This includes a $50 tax write-off for those who take the gun safety course and obtain a permit.
Butler advises anyone that is carrying a concealed a weapon, permitted or otherwise, that is stopped by law enforcement to let them know for the safety of all involved.
The new law has been celebrated by gun rights advocates as just recognition of Second Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
“This bill not only expands freedom, but will keep our citizens protected,” Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said recently. “Those taking advantage of this important freedom should do so responsibly.”
City Editor Ian Hicks contributed to this report.