West Virginia Concealed Carry
Although a reasonable effort has been made to ensure the information contained here is correct and up-to-date. There is no guarantee of its accuracy and you should not rely upon the information presented here as the final authority on any question you may have regarding the law. As with all legal matters, seek out the help of a qualified lawyer when necessary.
Article 7, Chapter 61 of the West Virginia Code generally governs the possession and carrying of deadly weapons in our state. Under WV 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. There is no requirement to show "good cause" to obtain a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon. As such West Virginia is classified as a "shall-issue" state.
The license is valid for 5 years and costs $100 for both first-time and renewal applicants. The license does not authorize the carrying of any concealed weapon, knives otherwise prohibited, brass knuckles, etc., other than pistols and revolvers.
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 WV Code § 61-7-4 requires all sheriffs to use. A person intending to apply for a concealed handgun license will need to print and complete the application form, have it signed and notarized (most sheriffs have a notary on staff), 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 additional $25 fee is due when the license is issued.
The qualifications necessary to be met to be licensed to carry concealed pistols & revolvers in West Virginia are as follows;
An applicant must:
- 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 yet 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 $25 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 non-residents (WV does not issue non-resident licenses)
West Virginia has universal recognition of concealed handgun licenses. See §61-7-7(6) for the pertinent portion of the State Code.
Currently, West Virginia has reciprocity with over 30 states. For a full list, visit the WV Attorney General's website here.
Official state reciprocity information pages:
Mississippi -- Missouri -- New Mexico -- North Carolina -- North Dakota -- Ohio -- Oklahoma
Pennsylvania -- South Carolina -- South Dakota -- Tennessee -- Texas -- Utah -- Virginia - Wyoming -- Idaho -- Indiana -- Iowa -- Montana -- Nebraska -- Nevada
Can a West Virginia Concealed Handgun License Be Used in lieu of a Federal Background Check for Firearm Purchases?
Yes. Thanks to HB 4186 passed during the 2014 Legislative Session, a concealed handgun license issued on or after June 4, 2014 qualifies for exemption from the NICS background check. It should be noted, however, that it is not mandatory for FFL dealers to honor this. They may elect to run a NICS check anyway, regardless of the fact that it is not required by law if your CHL qualifies you for NICS bypass.
Places Off Limits While Carrying
Although a CHL authorizes the licensee to carry state wide, 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:
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.
Our State Capitol carry ban, enacted in 2002, does not clearly define the territory covered by the weapon prohibition. 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 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
Where Cities/Municipalities may Ban Carry
SB317 (2014 session) preemption made state law uniform. Cities may not ban carry on property in excess of what state law allows. This was a
major win for firearms rights, as it removed a minefield where various cities had different laws. Places cities may ban carry:
- City Hall
- Convention Centers
- Administrative Buildings
- Other buildings used for the business of city government, not to include parks and garages
- Open carry without a CHL on city property
- Open carry without a license at a festival/fair/event where streets or sidewalks are blocked for the event
Open Carry of Firearms Without a License
It is generally permissible to openly carry firearms (pistols and rifles) loaded statewide. All restrictions regarding disqualified
persons and off limits locations apply to open carry.
The law recently changed (HB2515) to allow the open carrying of loaded firearms for defensive purposes in the woods of the state. Also included in this change is permitting the open carrying of handguns in a vehicle for defensive purposes.
It should be noted, that never in WV may you have a loaded longarm (shotgun or rifle) on any vehicle or conveyance in the State of West Virginia. It is also noteable, that as of the passage of HB2515, a loaded magazine for a rifle or shotgun is no longer considered a loaded firearm, as long as the magazine is detached, and the chamber is empty, leaving no live rounds in the firearm itself.
Carry / Open Carry FAQ
Q: Is it legal to open carry a long-gun in WV?
A: Yes, aside from other restrictions such as off-limits locations and prohibited persons, it is generally legal to open carry a rifle or shotgun in WV. There is a major caveat to this, however. You may never have a loaded longarm in a vehicle or on a conveyance in WV. And long arms must be cased after dark when in a vehicle or conveyance.
Q: What do I do about my CHL if I move to another county?
A: When you move to another county in the state, your license remains valid for the remainder of your five years. However, you must notify the Sheriff of the county in writing of your new and old address. The Sheriff of the new county MUST issue you a new license with your original expiration date, for a fee not to exceed $5. Reference: WVC§61-7-4(d)(4)(l)
Q: If I obtain a concealed handgun license, am I still allowed to open carry?
A: Yes. Getting a driver's license does not prohibit you from walking. Nor does getting a CHL prohibit you from open carry. The myth that you can no longer open carry once you get a CHL seems to be fairly widespread, but the WVCDL cannot seem to find the source for it.
Q: If I'm stopped by the police, do I have to tell them I'm armed?
A: No. West Virginia has no duty to inform. Ultimately, it is a personal decision on your part. Many officers appreciate being informed, but many WVCDL members (including the President) have had negative experiences resulting from informing officers. The choice is yours, but it is not required by law in West Virginia.
Q: Can I open or concealed carry at fairs and events?
A: Maybe. This answer is more complex than most. Let's start with open carry without a license.
If you are openly carrying without a license, cities are allowed to regulate the open carry of firearms without a license at venues where the streets are blocked to support the event.
If you have a CHL, and wish to carry openly or concealed at such an event, you may do so. However, all of the off-limits locations still apply. If a county fair is held on school property for example (and some in WV are) it is still a felony to carry openly or concealed on that property.
Q: What do I do if the Sheriff denies my permit?
A: Under HB2636, which passed in the 2015 legislative session, if you are wrongly denied your CHL, you can appeal your decision in circuit court. The change in law allows you to collect court costs and attorney's fees. This means that if you were wrongfully denied, a lawyer may take your case on contingency, meaning, it's possible that if your case is good enough, you may not have to shell out any fees out of pocket up front.
Q: Does my training certificate expire?
A: No. WV law requires no periodic recertification. Your course certificate is good for life in WV. However, the WVCDL recommends that you always provide the Sheriff with a copy of your certificate, as the Sheriff has no requirement to maintain a record of your training. In five years, you may have to present your certificate again. Some sheriffs, however, have gone the extra mile and maintain that documentation.
Q: Does a handgun carried openly, without a license have to be visible from three sides?
A: This is another widely distributed myth with no apparent source. The short answer is "no." The long answer is in the legal definition of a "concealed deadly weapon." From WVC§61-7-2(10):
(10) "Concealed" means hidden from ordinary observation so as to prevent disclosure or recognition. A deadly weapon is concealed when it is carried on or about the person in such a manner that another person in the ordinary course of events would not be placed on notice that the deadly weapon was being carried.
There is no reference anywhere in state law to "three sides."