By DARLENE J. SWIGER
The Exponent Telegram
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia concealed carry law that went into effect last June has not had an effect on police safety, but it has increased the sale of handguns in the area.
Beginning June 5, 2016, anyone over age 21 who could legally possess a firearm in West Virginia was allowed to carry it concealed on their person without having to obtain a permit. West Virginia has long allowed open carry without a permit but, like most states, required a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
Bridgeport Police Sgt. C.S. Carpenter said most people his department encounters tell officers if they are carrying concealed. And many people are still getting permits, so they are being properly trained, he said.
“In the back of everyone’s mind is the thought of a possible concealed weapon. Many officers are apt to ask about a weapon. Most relinquish that information when we first make contact,” Carpenter added.
The sergeant doesn’t think there has been an increase in gun incidents in the Bridgeport area since the law passed.
“I believe even though citizens have the right to carry concealed, they still should get a permit for proper training on how and when to use these firearms,” Carpenter said.
Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny said law enforcement officers have always been trained on how to approach people and to always assume they are armed.
“There is no change in heightened awareness. Personally, I’m not aware that the new law has created a problem so far. It does increase the possibility that someone we come in contact with is armed,” Matheny said. “But, by following good officer training and techniques, we watch the person as if they are armed.”
The long-time police officer said he has not seen any data on the issue, but he is not aware of any immediate problems or incidents the concealed carry law has caused.
“Since the law passed, I believe officers approach situations as they are trained and as they should,” Matheny said. “Guns are out there. We are aware of that. We respond. During training, they teach us that at every call we go on, there is at least one gun involved, that being the one the officer carries into the situation. That’s why it’s very important — on every call — to have the proper mindset and tactical ability to react properly.”
In years to come, data will be available to research any impact the law might have created. Matheny said he believes it’s too early to tell the effect the six-month-old state law has had on officer safety.
But it has affected the sale of handguns.
“There definitely has been an increase in handgun sales in the past six months,” said Sydney Peterlinz, firearms sales lead at McFly Outdoors at White Oaks, Bridgeport. “We carry all types of handguns.”
She carries a concealed weapon herself and has found that many of her customers are still unfamiliar with the new law.
“Many still think they must wait for their permit to carry their handgun,” Peterlinz said.
Small handguns seem to be the most popular, she added.
“We sell a lot of the .380 caliber Sig Sauer P938 and P238. They are nice, compact models that are good quality. Glocks Model 43 and 42 .380 caliber and Kimber Micro 9 or Micro 3 are big sellers,” Peterlinz said. “We have holsters that can be worn both inside or outside the waistband and some that are made for outside. They are small and discreet.”
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