Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.
West Virginia provides that, subject to certain limited exceptions, no person shall possess a firearm if he or she:
- Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
- Is habitually addicted to alcohol;
- Is an unlawful user of or habitually addicted to any controlled substance;
- Has been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent;1
- Has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution;2
- Is an illegal alien or otherwise unlawfully in the United States;
- Has been discharged from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions; or
- Falls within the categories of domestic abusers prohibited from possessing firearms under state law (see the section entitled Domestic Violence and Firearms in West Virginia for further information).3
Any person who knowingly sells, rents, gives, or lends or, where the person is other than a natural person, knowingly permits an employee thereof to knowingly sell, rent, give or lend any deadly weapon to a prohibited purchaser/possessor is criminally liable for a felony.4
West Virginia allows any of the prohibited purchasers listed above to petition the circuit court of the county in which he or she resides to regain the eligibility to possess a firearm.5 However, in 2008, West Virginia enacted a law specifically allowing persons prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons to regain their firearm eligibility.6 A law that West Virginia enacted in 2012 provides additional requirements for persons prohibited from firearm possession due to mental health history when petitioning for relief from disability.
See our Prohibited Purchasers Generally policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
- A “mental defective,” as defined by state law, is someone who has been determined by a duly authorized court, tribunal, board or other entity to be mentally ill to the point where he or she had been found to be incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness or insanity, has been found not guilty in a criminal proceeding by reason of mental illness or insanity or has been determined to be unable to handle his or her own affairs due to mental illness or insanity. W. Va. Code § 61-7A-2(1). ⤴︎
- See W. Va. Code § 61-7A-2(2), (3). ⤴︎
- W. Va. Code § 61-7-7(a). ⤴︎
- W. Va. Code § 61-7-10(d), (e). ⤴︎
- W. Va. Code § 61-7-7(c). ⤴︎
- W. Va. Code § 61-7A-5. ⤴︎