59 News special report: Breaking down gun laws in the two Virginias

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FILE – In this April 14, 2018 file photo, a man wears an unloaded pistol during a pro gun-rights rally in Austin, Texas. In a letter sent to the Senate on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, CEOs from businesses including Airbnb, Twitter and Uber asked Congress to pass a bill to require background checks on all […]

TAZEWELL, VA (WVNS) – People typically choose to personally own handguns for protection. One of the first things Major Mike Shawver with the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office tells residents of Southwest Virginia who take his conceal and carry class is that is their right.

“It is certainly your right and also your responsibility to protect yourself and your family,” Maj. Shawver said.

Since 2012, Maj. Shawver and his colleages have taught more than 2,000 residents of Tazewell County.

“We go over the gun laws in Virginia in very deep detail during our classes, so they leave there with a good knowledge of what they can and cannot do,” Maj. Shawver said.

While open carry of a handgun without a permit is legal in Virginia if your 18 or older, to conceal and carry you need a Concealed Handgun Permit, which can be earned online or in classes like Major Shawver’s. In terms of reciprocity, Virginia honors all out-of-state concealed carry permits.

“Virginia is not a constitutional carry state like West Virginia,” Maj. Shawver explained. “So Virginia requires that a person becomes trained in the use of a firearm before they can actually carry a concealed weapon. “

Shawver added that once certificates are earned, people can conceal their weapons in their cars and on school property only when picking up their children, not inside the building, or at school functions. They cannot carry on federal property and cannot drink alcohol while carrying.

It is also important to make yourself aware of reciprocity laws in other states when traveling.

While laws vary in the two states, what Virginia and the Mountain State do have in common is the process to buy a gun from a store. Potential buyers need to be state residents and pass a background check. People in both states can also sell a handgun to another citizen without a background check.

In West Virginia, no permit is necessary for concealed carry of a handgun for any person over the age of 21 who is legally allowed to own a handgun. However, store owners, like Michael Crook, highly recommend taking approved training courses so you have knowledge on the weapon.

They also recommend getting proper permits to be able to travel to states with reciprocal agreements.

“Just for the overall safety aspects of what you can learn in the classes,” Crook said.

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