West Virginia protects the right to bear arms under Article III, Section 22 of the state constitution, but this does not mean that everyone may carry a gun, or that you may always carry a gun wherever you like. West Virginia requires a concealed carry permit to carry a weapon concealed on (or near) you body or vehicle unless you are in your house, at your place of business, or on your own property. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-4.) For more information on permitting laws, see Gun Permit Laws in West Virginia.
The following sections explain who may not have a gun, and the circumstances or situations when carrying a gun is illegal.
People Who May Not Carry a Gun in West Virginia
The following individuals are prohibited from carrying a weapon in West Virginia.
- those younger than 21 years old (except people between 18 and 20 years old who are required to carry a concealed handgun as a condition of employment)
- non- residents of West Virginia (unless the person is a permit holder from a state with reciprocity with West Virginia—see Gun Permit Laws in West Virginia for more information on reciprocity)
- addicts or unlawful users of alcohol or controlled substances
- convicted felons or those convicted of any act of violence involving the misuse of a deadly weapon
- those convicted of certain specified misdemeanors
- those currently under indictment, serving a sentence, or under a protective order for certain domestic violence crimes, and
- those adjudicated as physically and mentally incompetent (currently or at any time in the past)
(W. Va. Code § 61-7-4.)
Situations or Circumstances Where Carrying a Gun is Illegal
The following rules govern when you may not carry a gun in West Virginia.
- Unless you are in your house, place of business, or on your own property, you may not carry a concealed firearm without a concealed carry permit. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-4.)
- You may not carry a firearm (openly or concealed) on another person’s property if that person has prohibited it. This does not apply to law enforcement officers acting in an official capacity. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-14.)
- You may not carry a firearm on school premises, unless you have express written permission from the county school superintendent, or if you are a law enforcement officer acting in an official capacity. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-14.)
Penalties for Gun Carry Violations
It is a misdemeanor to carry a handgun in West Virginia without a concealed carry license (unless you are in your own home, on your own property, or at your fixed place of business). Penalties for a first offense include a fine of at least $100 (and up to $1,000), up to 12 months in jail, or both. Second and subsequent offenses incur a fine of at least $1,000 (and up to $5,000), at least one year (and up to five years) in prison, or both. (W. Va. Code § 61-7-3.)
It is a misdemeanor to carry a firearm (openly or concealed) on another person’s property if that person has prohibited it. If you refuse to temporarily relinquish possession of the firearm or to leave the property when requested to do so, it is a misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-14.)
It is a felony to carry a firearm on school property. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, at least two (and up to ten) years in prison, or both. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-11a.)
West Virginia has a special law prohibiting the possession of a machine gun, submachine gun, or any other fully automatic weapon. Possession is a misdemeanor, and penalties include a fine of at least $1,000 (and up to $5,000), and at least 90 days (and up to one year) in jail. (W.Va. Code § 61-7-9.)
Getting Legal Help
The penalties for violating gun carry laws are serious, and often include harsh fines and long prison sentences. If you have any questions about whether you are allowed to carry a gun in West Virginia, or if you are facing charges for a gun violation, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.