As of 2016, West Virginia is a “Constitutional carry” state, meaning that any law-abiding adult can carry a firearm concealed without a permit.
So is there a reason to get a concealed carry permit at all?
Jared Edgreen is a Defense In Depth trainer with 9 years of experience with the Secret Service. He is licensed to train law enforcement in special tactics, driver training and active shooter scenarios. Jared says that though it’s your Constitutional right to carry without a permit in West Virginia (and in a growing number of other states), there are three very important reasons to get one anyway.
1. State Lines & Travel
Without a permit to conceal your firearm, your right to carry only extends to the West Virginia state line. In this region of the state – only 10 miles from PA and 50 miles from OH – people often find themselves crossing state lines for work or personal travel.
For people who take the time to obtain a concealed carry permit, a major portion of the entire country opens up. Here is a map of all the states in which you can carry concealed with a West Virginia permit. (This map is current as of publication, but laws change, so make sure you check with law enforcement agencies for future confirmation.)
For people age 21 and up, a West Virginia permit is valid in states that are both shaded and striped with blue. (The striped states also recognize “provisional” permits for 18-20 year olds.)
The other two reasons to get your permit are intimately related:
“We teach in many of our courses here that firearms are not magic wands,” Jared says. “You can’t just carry a firearm and think ‘I’ve got a gun and now I’m protected from anything.’”
Being a good shot and getting intimately familiar with the safe handling of your own gun is the most obvious reason to take classes. But this is just the beginning. Jared says that the most important thing lacking when a gun owner decides not to get a permit is the mental preparation involved, and the knowledge of the way laws about civilian use of force apply to self defense scenarios.
“If you’re not aware how and when you can pull that firearm according to the law, you’re setting yourself up for some serious liability.”
“If you discharge a firearm, you’re going to court whether it’s justified or not,” Jared says. “You will be judged. You’ll have 12 of your peers look at your situation and decide whether or not there was reason to believe that serious bodily injury or death was imminent.”
Those jury members will be instructed to rule according to the specifics of the law, and without knowing those laws and practicing accordingly, an already bad situation can become a lot worse.
The Defense In Depth Concealed Carry class ($99) is great for people new shooters and those who are familiar with firearms. We cover some basic topics like safety and storage, but also lay out the details of where you can legally carry, when you can legally draw (or use) your firearm, selecting firearms and ammunition that are right for you, situational awareness, and a number of other important factors not taught by other instructors.
You’ve made the decision to become a responsible citizen, and to be capable of defending your life and home. Now get trained, and ensure that you’re able to do so outside of the state, legally and ethically.