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Legal Information: West Virginia

State Gun Laws

Updated: 
August 12, 2020

If the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?

If an abuser is arrested for violating West Virginia’s domestic violence law, the arresting officer is required to take (seize) any weapons alleged to have been involved or threatened to be used in the commission of the crime. The officer can also seize weapons in plain view and weapons that may be possessed in violation of a protective order.1

1 W. Va. Code § 48-27-1002(e)

Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the state police. If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our WV Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in West Virginia on the ATF website. For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867). Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our WV Advocates and Shelters page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law. If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.1

1United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

What is the penalty for violating the firearm laws?

Under West Virginia law, anyone who has a gun while s/he is prohibited from possession because of any of the restrictions listed in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal? is guilty of a misdemeanor. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction is a fine between $100 and $1,000, confinement in the county jail for between 90 days and one year, or both.1 However, if the person had a prior felony conviction or certain drug convictions, then s/he is guilty of a felony, which is punishable by imprisonment up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.2

If someone who is not allowed to carry a gun is caught with a concealed gun, s/he is guilty of a felony, which is punishable by imprisonment up to three years, a fine of up to than $5,000, or both.3 Also, if that person who carries a concealed firearm has a felony conviction or certain drug convictions, s/he can be imprisoned for up to ten years, issued a fine of up to $10,000, or both.4

Federal laws, which apply to all states, may impose additional penalties for violating federal gun laws under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 W. Va. Code § 61-7-7(a)
2 W. Va. Code § 61-7-7(b)(2)
3 W. Va. Code § 61-7-7(d)
4 W. Va. Code § 61-7-7(e)

What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from legally buying a gun. Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system. Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate. Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website