Although we have made reasonable efforts to ensure the information contained here is correct and up-to-date, we cannot guarantee its accuracy and advise against relying upon the information presented here as the final authority on any question you may have regarding the law.
Article 7, Chapter 61 of the West Virginia Code generally governs the possession and carrying of deadly weapons in our state. Under W.Va. Code § 61-7-4, any resident of West Virginia who meets the non discretionary statutory qualifications shall be issued a license to carry concealed pistols or revolvers by the sheriff of his or her county of residence. The license is valid for 5 years and costs $90 for both first-time and renewal applicants. The license does not authorize the carrying of any concealed weapon other than pistols and revolvers–no knives, brass knuckles, etc.
The West Virginia State Police has made available online the current uniform application form that has been prescribed by the Superintendent of the State Police and which § 61-7-4 requires all sheriffs to use. A person intending to apply for a concealed handgun license will need to complete the application form, print it, go to a notary public (most sheriffs have a notary on staff) and sign the application in front of the notary and have the application notarized, and then file the application together with a copy of the applicant’s driver’s license, a copy of the applicant’s proof of training or existing license, and the $75 fee due at the time of application (the other $15 is due when the license is issued).
To be licensed to carry concealed pistols & revolvers in West Virginia, an applicant must meet the following qualifications:
- Be a resident of this state and of the county in which the application is filed
- Be at least 21 years of age or be at least 18 years of age and be employed in a job requiring the applicant to carry concealed handguns
- Not be addicted to or an unlawful user of alcohol, controlled substances, or other drugs
- Not have been convicted of a felony
- Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence involving the use of a deadly weapon
- Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
- Not be currently subject to either a temporary or final domestic violence protective order
- Not be on probation or any other form of judicial supervision for any misdemeanor
- Not under indictment for any felony
- Not have been adjudicated mentally incompetent by any court
- Be physically and mentally competent to carry a concealed handgun; this provision is vague but has not led to known abuses
- Have successfully completed one of several specified forms of training in handling and firing a handgun.
W.Va. Code § 61-7-4(d) requires an applicant for a concealed handgun license to take a course in handling and firing a handgun and specifies 4 types of acceptable training. West Virginia only requires training at some point prior to initial licensure and does not require refresher courses or recertification. In addition, provided that an applicant retains documentation of having completed one of the specified forms of training and the training fulfills one of the statutory criteria, training taken many years ago is legally sufficient.
The acceptable forms of training for a West Virginia concealed handgun license are:
- Any official national rifle association handgun safety or training course;
- Any handgun safety or training course or class available to the general public offered by an official law-enforcement organization, community college, junior college, college or private or public institution or organization or handgun training school utilizing instructors duly certified by such institution;
- Any handgun training or safety course or class conducted by a handgun instructor certified as such by the state or by the national rifle association; [or]
- Any handgun training or safety course or class conducted by any branch of the United States military, reserve or national guard.
Among the many problems with West Virginia’s concealed handgun licensing law WVCDL will be seeking to correct is that with regard to military weapons training, our law requires specific proof of handgun training, unlike several other states that accept an honorable discharge as fulfilling their training requirements. So please note that even if you are a veteran who served our country, West Virginia requires you to lighten your wallet and spend a day taking a redundant civilian handgun safety class to obtain a West Virginia concealed handgun license.
When applying for a concealed handgun license, an applicant should make a photocopy of his or her proof of training and keep the original. An applicant should permanently retain the original copy of the original proof of training should he or she move to another state that might accept it in lieu of taking a new course to carry in his or her new state of residence or if a licensee lets his or her license lapse and has to apply for a new license, at which time you must provide proof of training; only when a person renews a current, valid CHL is he or she not required to produce a training certificate. In addition, until West Virginia improves its reciprocity law, the same training that fulfills West Virginia’s CHL training requirement also fulfills the training requirement to obtain an Arizona or Florida non-resident license to permit you to legally travel while armed in many other states.
West Virginia charges two separate fees for concealed handgun licenses. At the time of application, an applicant must pay the sheriff $75. If the license is granted, the licensee must pay the sheriff an additional $15 at the time of claiming the license. Each sheriff varies as to the form of payment (cash, check, money order, etc.) that may be used to pay these fees.
Of West Virginia’s four neighboring right-to-carry states, all charge substantially lower fees and all, like West Virginia, issue their licenses for periods of 5 years. The fees are:
- Pennsylvania: $20
- Ohio: $67 for new license applicant, $50 for renewals
- Kentucky: $60
- Virginia: $15-$50 (varies by county or city) for residents, $100 for nonresidents (WV does not issue nonresident licenses)
WVCDL’s top legislative priority is reforming our concealed carry reciprocity law to unconditionally recognize every concealed handgun license issued by another state to a person who is at least 21 years old, not a West Virginia resident, and not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms, similar to existing universal recognition laws in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska.
Currently, West Virginia has reciprocity with 24 states, while an additional 6 states honor a West Virginia CHL without requiring us to honor their licenses. Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont do not require a license to carry a handgun, either openly or concealed; however, Alaska and Arizona have shall-issue licensing systems for issuing licenses for reciprocity purposes and have reciprocity with West Virginia. Although several states that unilaterally honor West Virginia licenses are eligible to establish full reciprocity with West Virginia, at this time, West Virginia has reached the end of the road in expanding the recognition of West Virginia licenses in other states without changes in West Virginia law by our Legislature or other states’ legislatures changing their respective laws.
Last updated April 4, 2012.
Official state reciprocity information pages:
Alaska – Arizona – Arkansas – Delaware – Florida – Kansas – Kentucky – Louisiana – Michigan
Mississippi – Missouri – New Mexico – North Carolina – North Dakota – Ohio – Oklahoma
Pennsylvania – South Carolina – South Dakota – Tennessee – Texas – Utah – Virginia – Wyoming
Why Not More Reciprocity?
Current West Virginia law poses several impediment to the establishment of reciprocity with other states. First, W.Va. Code § 61-7-6a imposes two major restrictions on the establishment of reciprocity with other states.
- First, West Virginia is one of only two states (Ohio is the other) whose reciprocity law requires another state to enter into a formal, written reciprocity agreement as a condition of that state’s licenses being recognized. Every other state that has a reciprocity law in effect either unilaterally recognizes all other states’ licenses without regard to reciprocity and/or provides one or more alternative legal mechanisms for effecting reciprocity without this formality.
- Second, West Virginia is one of three states (along with Nevada and Virginia) that have, as a condition of recognizing another state’s concealed handgun license, that the other state have a centralized computer database for the purpose of providing instantaneous license verification to law-enforcement officers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every other state that has a reciprocity law in effect takes other states’ licenses at face value. Law-enforcement officers in the field seldom, if ever actually encounter counterfeit concealed handgun licenses.
On the flip side of the coin, the are many gaps and deficiencies in our licensing criteria that have resulted in at least 3 states–Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin–deeming West Virginia’s licensing standards inadequate under their standards for establishing reciprocity.
Here is West Virginia’s potential reciprocity if the Legislature would pass
WVCDL’s proposed concealed weapon licensing statute overhaul bill:
Can a West Virginia Concealed Handgun License Be Used in Lieu of a Federal Background Check for Firearm Purchases?
No. Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3)(A), individuals who have handgun purchase permits (not required or issued in West Virginia) or concealed weapon permits are exempt from having to undergo a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System before purchasing or receiving a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer if the issuing state follows specific background check procedures to verify that the person is not prohibited by law from possessing firearms. However, West Virginia does not meet these requirements–which, along with keeping West Virginia off the list of states whose CCW licensees are NICS-exempt, is also part of the reason we do not meet certain states’ reciprocity eligibility requirements.
Did You Know?
The Division of Motor Vehicles accepts a current, valid West Virginia concealed handgun license that shows the licensee’s current residence address as proof of residence for obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Click here for more information.
Places Off Limits While Carrying
Although a CHL authorizes the licensee to carry statewide, other state laws restrict or prohibit the carrying of weapons, openly or concealed, in certain locations. Having a valid CHL is not a defense or exception to the prohibitions under West Virginia law on carrying in any of the following areas:
- The grounds of any jail, state correctional facility, juvenile facility or juvenile detention center, unless specifically authorized by the authorities in control of the facility (W.Va. Code § 61-5-8(c))
- Primary or secondary school property (W.Va. Code § 61-7-11a(b))
- School buses (W.Va. Code § 61-7-11a(b))
- Primary or secondary school-sponsored functions or events (W.Va. Code § 61-7-11a(b))
- Courthouses (W.Va. Code § 61-7-11a(g))
- Anywhere on the State Capitol Complex, including the grounds outside the buildings (W.Va. Code § 61-6-19(b))
- Wherever signs are posted indicating weapon restrictions or where notice has been given by other means. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-14) However, a person is not subject to the misdemeanor penalty provided for a violation of any such restriction unless that person refuses to either leave or temporarily relinquish his or her weapon, upon being confronted about the violation.
- The city hall, municipal auditorium, the civic center, and all parks and recreation buildings ad facilities, including recreation centers, playgrounds, swimming pools, dressing areas, tennis courts, parks and recreation areas and all other buildings, structures, facilities, and grounds thereof, owned or occupied by the City of Charleston (Charleston City Code § 78-165–grandfathered under preemption)
- City Hall or any municipal building or public park in the City of Dunbar (Dunbar City Code § 545.13–grandfathered under preemption)
- Any city-owned building, park or recreation area in the City of South Charleston (South Charleston City Code § 545.15–grandfathered under preemption)
In addition to these locations, federal law prohibits carrying in, among other places:
- Any building or part of a building owned or leased by the federal government where federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties (18 U.S.C. § 930)
- The secure areas of airports
Please note that under the prohibition on carrying on school property, a person with a CHL cannot have a loaded gun in their car even if that person only temporarily drives his or her vehicle onto school grounds with the intent of quickly leaving without exiting the vehicle. Many states have recognized the inherent problems with similar laws and have, in some states, completely exempted CHL holders from their gun-free school zone laws or, in many other states, created exemptions to allow CHL holders to legally carry and store loaded handguns in their vehicle while driving or parking on school property.
Second, our State Capitol carry ban, enacted in 2002, does not clearly define the territory covered by the weapon prohibition and WVCDL is unaware of any court rulings on questions such as whether this statute extends to prohibiting the possession of a gun in a vehicle parked in one of the many state-owned public parking lots in the vicinity of the State Capitol. Violations of this statute are misdemeanors punishable by up to 6 months in jail; because the penalty for a first offense of illegally carrying a concealed weapon without a license is up to 1 year in jail, this statute only affects CHL holders and a very small number of non-CHL holders who openly carry. Neighboring Virginia allows anyone with a CHL to carry anywhere in their state capitol, even into meetings of the General Assembly or legislative committees.
In this map, the “non right to carry” states are those states that either do not issue concealed carry permits or which are highly restrictive “may issue” states. This map serves only to compare concealed carry privacy among “shall issue” and the 2 “reasonable may issue” states (Alabama & Connecticut) as of July 2010.
The names, addresses, and other personally-identifying information of all West Virginia concealed handgun licensees are public records. The virulently anti-gun Charleston Gazette routinely publishes the names of everyone who obtains a concealed handgun license in Kanawha County. Anyone from a nosy neighbor to an abusive ex has the right to see your CHL application in its entirety. WVCDL supports legislation protecting the privacy of CHL holders by prohibiting the public disclosure of the personally-identifying information of CHL holders.