Know the Laws: West Virginia
UPDATED November 27, 2012
WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area if you are dealing with an issue of gun laws. To find an agency, please go to the WV Where to Find Help page.
No. Under federal law, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.* If you're not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?
* 18 USC § 922(g)(9)
A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under federal law if it:
Was committed by:
Note: The crime does not have to specifically mention "domestic violence" in order for it to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor, and for the federal firearm law to apply.** The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a "domestic violence" misdemeanor.***
For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, he may no longer have or buy a gun. If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.
If you're not sure if a certain crime counts as a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-3011, ext. 2
In West Virginia, domestic battery and domestic assault against a family or household member is a misdemeanor. Family or household member is defined as:
* 18 USC § 921(33)(A)
** United States v, Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d. 139 (2d. Cir, 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F. 3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999)
*** United States v. Denis, 297 F. 3d 25 (1st Cir. 2002); United States v. Costigan, No. 009-B0H, 2000 US Dist (D. Me. June, 2000)
**** W. Va. Code § 61-2-28
A felony under federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.*
* 18 USC § 3559
No. Law enforcement officers and other government officials who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony cannot have or buy guns for any purpose, including their official duties, according to federal law.*
* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)
Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.
Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.
To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?
In West Virginia, you need a picture ID to get access to any records involving domestic violence at the courthouse.