W.Va.'s Constitutional Carry Gun Law takes effect Tuesday

Published: May. 23, 2016 at 6:23 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Beginning Tuesday, anyone 21 and older in West Virginia can walk around with a concealed handgun without a permit or training.

"The folks that are going to do it do have a mindset of it's kind of a responsibility," Sebastian Parsley said, "and it's not going to be the wild west. People do take it seriously."

Parsley owns Herd Tactical in Barboursville. He believes the new gun law will give people across the state peace of mind knowing they can almost always carry protection.

"We all have the obligation to be able to protect ourselves," Parsley said. "Police can't be everywhere all the time. So, it's up to us to be able to protect ourselves, our friends and family and loved ones. It kind of lets everybody have the opportunity to do that in the state without having to pay a $100 fee to have the right to do it."

Law enforcement officials say they have real concerns allowing just about anyone to walk around with a concealed handgun, especially without training.

"I think all it does is give them a false sense of security, and I think were going to see that play itself out," Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said. "I know how difficult it is for police officers who are extensively trained in the use of firearms. And repeatedly, over and over and over again trained, to effectively use them, so for someone who has zero training and zero skills."

Ciccarelli believes the new law will hurt his department's ability to arrest drug dealers and other criminals who are carrying illegal handguns.

"Not being able to use that as a tool to put those people in jail when they need to be is going to harm our law enforcement efforts and our drug enforcement efforts, quite frankly," Chief Ciccarelli said.

But supporters point to tougher penalties within the law that they believe will help crack down on illegal activity.

"The penalties are greatly increased and it really put some teeth into the laws," Parsley said, "where before they were kind of treated as lower level crimes, and now they're big-time felonies."

The law creates enhanced penalties for anyone who is prohibited from carrying a handgun. If criminals or a mentally ill person unlawfully has a concealed weapon, they can be charged with an additional penalty that is punishable by up to three years in prison. Criminals who use guns during a felony can be charged with a felony, which carries up to 10 years in prison.

Chief Ciccarelli says he hopes businesses in the state will ban people from carrying handguns into their establishments.

"Business owners have had, even under the previous system, the ability to ban firearms on their premises," Chief Ciccarelli said. "I would certainly urge every business owner to post that and enforce it and to call us to enforce it."

Another concern gun owners should keep in mind is traveling with their concealed handgun. Gun owners must still have a concealed carry permit to carry their handgun beyond West Virginia's borders. As of now, 37 states now allow West Virginians to carry concealed weapons in their state, including Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, but not Maryland.

"What most people do want their concealed carry permits for is to go to the beach or make a road trip or something like that," Parsley said. "You're still going to have to have your concealed carry permit to travel out of state, and especially in the Tri-State area, if you're going to head over to Ohio to run an errand and you have your gun on you, you're still going to need your concealed carry permit or you're going to be breaking the law in Ohio."

Anyone 18 to 20 can get a less expensive provisional concealed handgun license. However, they must first go through a background check and take a training course in firing and handling a handgun.