(05/28/2016)
Beginning this week, anyone 21 and older in West Virginia can walk around with a concealed handgun without a permit, background check or training.

The "free carry" law was passed by the WV Legislature, supported in-person by the National Rifle Association, one of the biggest lobby groups in the USA.

The bill was widely opposed by WV law enforcement.

Law enforcement officials say they have real concerns allowing just about anyone to walk around with a concealed handgun, no matter their mental status.

The expansion, according to NRA gun advocates, will make Americans safer.

Sebastian Parsley, who owns Herd Tactical in Barboursville, says 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.

"I think all it does is give people a false sense of security, and I think were going to see that play itself out," said Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli.

"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," he said.

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.

"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."

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.


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