Americans are afforded the right to bear arms by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. However, interpretations of the Amendment vary. And, until federal lawmakers pass national reciprocity legislation, gun owners must follow a patchwork of state laws on possessing and carrying firearms. Because regulations vary so widely, gun owners who are traveling across state lines must be aware of gun license reciprocity and concealed carry laws in states they plan to traverse or visit.
Concealed Carry and Gun License Reciprocity in WV, KY, OH, and Other States
Laws regarding the possession of weapons have become less stringent in recent decades, but there are still many restrictions gun owners should know. Gun laws in West Virginia (WV), Kentucky (KY), and Ohio (OH) are more permissive than some other states, but the laws of your place of residence do not govern your right to legally possess and carry a gun in other locations. Before traveling out of your home state, learn about the gun license reciprocity laws in your destination state as well as the states you plan to travel through.
What Is a Gun License and When Do You Need One?
Some states require you to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm, and there are often associated fees. WV, KY, and OH do not require fees although background checks are required by federal law when you purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
Additional regulations limit an individual’s right to carry a concealed weapon, also referred to as concealed carry. Most states issue concealed carry licenses, but these state-issued licenses are not always recognized by other states, and additional laws in a state may restrict the carrying of a concealed gun in specific locations. For example, general citizens are not permitted to have a gun in or near schools and federal buildings (with few exceptions), and states or municipalities sometimes restrict concealed carry within geographical limits.
There are around 17 million issued concealed carry licenses in the US. Currently, 14 jurisdictions do not require a permit to conceal a handgun and 43 are “shall-issue” jurisdictions, meaning the state must issue a license if all criteria are met. Eight “may-issue” states leave the decision to permit concealed carry of a weapon to local police authorities. At one time, there were states with “no issue” concealed weapons policies, but that practice was determined to be unconstitutional, but some jurisdictions have implemented requirements stringent enough that they are functionally “no issue” locations.
Concealed Carry Gun License Reciprocity
Gun license reciprocity is the practice of recognizing the concealed carry permissions of other states and jurisdictions. A full reciprocity state recognizes all legally obtained concealed carry permits from other states. While many states maintain full reciprocity status, there can be restrictions such as refusal to honor nonresident concealed carry permits issued by other states, requirements as to how the gun must be contained, or, as mentioned above, specific locations within a state where carrying is not permitted.
A number of states offer partial reciprocity, which means those locations have agreements with other states to recognize permits. At the other end of the spectrum are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, and New York City, which have no reciprocity policies. It is, therefore, illegal for nonresidents to carry a concealed weapon in those locations.
The Federal Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 permits gun owners with a concealed carry permit in their jurisdiction of residence to travel through other areas with a concealed weapon. However, specific rules apply, including the following:
You must be travelling to a destination where your concealed carry permit is recognized.
The gun must be unloaded.
The gun must be in a locked container.
The gun may not be in the glove compartment or console of the vehicle.
You may only stop briefly at rest areas or service stations.
Gun License Reciprocity in WV, KY, and OH
West Virginia is an unrestricted or constitutional carry state. As such, legal gun owners from other jurisdictions may carry a concealed weapon in the Mountain State, but WV does not issue nonresident concealed carry permits.
While a license is not required to carry a concealed gun within WV, the states that offer reciprocity restrict those agreements to individuals with concealed carry licenses, so a license will be necessary if you plan to travel out of state with your weapon. Most states allow WV gun owners with a valid concealed carry license to legally conceal a weapon in their jurisdiction, but travelers should be advised that additional restrictions sometimes apply.
Kentucky passed legislation in 2019 that eliminated the requirement for a license to carry a concealed handgun. Senate Bill 150, which amended Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) chapter 237, also removed several limitations on gun ownership, specifically for individuals who owe child support or have been convicted of a misdemeanor drug or alcohol offense. Kentucky issues nonresident concealed carry permits only to military personnel stationed in the state.
Like WV gun owners, KY concealed carry reciprocity requires residents to obtain a concealed carry permit to be entitled to reciprocity in states that allow it. A majority of states offer reciprocity to KY gun owners with a valid concealed carry permit.
Finally, Ohio requires residents to obtain a permit to carry a concealed gun. Legislation to eliminate the permit requirement for concealed carry in OH was introduced—though not passed—in the 2019 session. Nonresident concealed carry permits are issued to qualified applicants who work in the state.
Most states allow reciprocity for concealed carry for Ohio gun owners. And Ohio is a full reciprocity state, permitting gun owners from any state who are permitted to carry a concealed weapon to do so within state lines (again, with some restrictions for specific public locations).
The Concealed Carry Laws Apply to Gun Trust Firearms, Too
The National Firearms Act (NFA) regulates certain firearms, such as the following:
Destructive devices such as grenades and certain firearms with a bore greater than one-half inch.
In part, the NFA requires firearm training, background checks, and transfer taxes on these items. Sometimes, and intended heir may not meet all of the requirements for ownership of an NFA-regulated firearm.
A gun trust is an estate planning tool that helps owners of NFA weapons comply with the Act. The trust takes title to these firearms but allows the named beneficiaries access to possess and use them. Gun trusts offer NFA firearm owners peace of mind that the firearms, sometimes family heirlooms, can safely pass on to the intended heirs.
A gun trust in WV, KY, or OH helps you and those you wish to inherit your guns to meet the requirements regarding NFA firearms, but having a gun trust doesn’t relieve you or any other trust beneficiary of following the concealed carry laws of the state in which you reside or travel with a firearm. A gun trust defines who may possess and use a designated firearm, but state law regarding the carrying or transportation of that firearm still applies.
How Gun Trusts and Understanding Gun License Reciprocity Laws Protect Your Second Amendment Rights
Possessing and bearing arms is your Second Amendment right, but it’s not without legislative limitations. A gun trust can help protect your firearms for passing on to future generations, but it has no effect the requirement to abide by concealed carry laws.
If you are a legal gun owner, it is critical that you understand the gun license reciprocity laws of other jurisdictions and how those regulations apply to you, especially when you plan to carry when you travel to other states. Those who have legal questions about concealed carry laws or setting up a gun trust in WV, KY, or OH can contact attorney Anna Price of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC by calling 866-617-4736 or completing her online contact form.