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Thread: WV hunting rgulations prohibit loaded guns in vehicles

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    I just read the WV hunting regulations and they state that it is illegal to have a loaded firearm in or on any vehicle or conveyance or its attachments. Please correct me if Im wrong but doesn't that make oc in a vehicle against the law. Also it sounds to me that it is illegal to oc on a bicycle or horse or atv, even though I coulde walk from point A to point B while open carrying I can't ride a bicycle from point A to point B. I am trying very hard to understand firearms laws in this state but I am getting confused.

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    There is also a hunting regulation that states that it is illegal to carry an uncased or loaded firearm in the woods, except during open firearms hunting season. Does this mean i can't even oc while Im walking around in the middle of nowhere. There are not many places in this state where you are not technically in the woods. My house is in the woods. I live way out in the sticks. You can find these regs at www.wvdnr.gov/Hunting/Laws. Do these laws only pertain to long guns or guns used for hunting specifically. I thought the one place you could carry a gun was in the woods. Also,what are the laws concerning openly carrying a long gun in this state.

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    I can't quite remember where I read it, but I remember reading somewhere a while back that this restriction only applies, as it does in most states, to long guns and guns intended for hunting. Handguns are exempt. In West Virginia, it is completely legal to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a permit as long as it is not concealed.

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    Per the WVSP's website, "West Virginia permits anyone who can lawfully possess a handgun to carry an unconcealed handgun. If you choose to carry an unconcealed handgun in your vehicle and are stopped by a law-enforcement officer, you must understand that that the weapon will immediately attract the attention of the police officer."

    http://www.wvstatepolice.com/legal/FAQ%27S.html

    That answers it for me.

    As far as carryinglong gun in the woods. I suggest you just buy a hunting license. That way no one can give you an greif about hunting withouta license and you can legally shoot any coyotes you might see. I thik the DNR regulation is designed more to prevent accidents during hunting season.

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    There is long standing tension between state hunting statutes and regulations (which often presume possession of a loaded gun = hunting) and state right to carry provisions in state constitutions & statutes (which declare or imply that possession of loaded guns is lawful).

    Many states have this tension - in WV, the State Police appear to resolve this tension as stated on their web site cited above.

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    Very ture Mike. I had one LEO tell me that when he was at the academy back in the 80's the DNR offical that spoke one day was quite arrogant in his views about carrying in the woods. The guy's opinion was that the DNR is king in the woods and what they say goes and all of the people and cops can bugger off.:shock:The LEO that was telling me this went on to say that, "'PenguinPolicemen' havea complex because their not real cops." Thats his words not mine, butfunny none the less.

    So not only is there tension between regulations, but between agencies as well.

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    A while back I read a West Virginia Supreme Court ruling that said that the hunting regulations applied only to long guns and guns intended for hunting. It did mention scoped handguns as being intended for hunting (duh) and said some more stuff about it. If anyone knows where this is please post a link, I'll keep looking for it as I have time.

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    Yet the DNR idiots have more power than the police and are often used in my area for police work when the regular sheriffs and state police are low on man power. Before I get grief about the idiot remark I know a few of the DNR guys and they are on a power trip. Also they get a little extra time off for writing violations.

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    MtnWalker wrote:
    Yet the DNR idiots have more power than the police and are often used in my area for police work when the regular sheriffs and state police are low on man power. Before I get grief about the idiot remark I know a few of the DNR guys and they are on a power trip. Also they get a little extra time off for writing violations.
    DNR has more power than police? Even when the Surpreme Court says hunting laws only apply to hunting? They have more power than the Supreme Court, who's sole purpose is to interpret law under our checks and balances system? It would make for an interesting lawsuit if I were ever arrested by a DNR officer in WV for OC.

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    I am not arguing the fact that DNR "thinks" they have more power than the police and "thinks" they have absolute final decision-making power in the woods. Just saying let's see one of them try it on someone who's not afraid to stand up for their rights.

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    I think what he means is that DNR may have the power to make regulations which have the force of law, while the police department has no such power. It's like that in many states, and even the federal departments.

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    But they can't make regulations that go against state laws (ie preemption).

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    badmonkey wrote:
    But they can't make regulations that go against state laws (ie preemption).
    Here in VA they (they being the DCNR) can and do ban open carry in state parks and national forests. I'd like to be able to tell them they can't do that.

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    badmonkey wrote:
    But they can't make regulations that go against state laws (ie preemption).
    Unfortunately, West Virginia's preemption law is a block of Swiss cheese. One ofits many holes is that it only applies to county and municipal ordinances and does nothing about state agencies rules or local administrative actions.

    The WVCDL is working on having a bill to adopt a stronger state preemption law introduced in the Legislature.
    James M. "Jim" Mullins, Jr., Esq.
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    Founder, Past President, Treasurer, and General Counsel, West Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
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    WVCDL wrote:
    and does nothing about state agencies rules or local administrative actions.
    So a locality could say "arrest anyone for open carry" and legally do it? Just not have a written ordinance against it? What do you mean by administrative actions?

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    Tomahawk wrote:
    Here in VA they (they being the DCNR) can and do ban open carry in state parks and national forests. I'd like to be able to tell them they can't do that.
    Sorry for not being clear, I was not refering to state parks and national forests, they have had regulations in place for them for a long time. I'm just talking about the woods in general. I don't see how a DNR officer can tell you that you can't open carry in the woods generally, such as if you were hiking. I know about prohibitions in parks and national forests but what I'm wondering now is if I'm hiking somewhere that is not a state park or nat. forest, can some DNR officer who wants to be a jerk because he doesn't like open carry arrest me since they have their own set of laws which go against the state constitution? Freedom indeed.

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    One more thing guys. I'm sorry if I'm comming across as snapping back at things in the wrong way, that's not how I mean any of this, just trying to figure out what's going on here. I blame it on my recent activity over at glocktalk!

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    It starting to look like I'm not the only one confused about WV firearm laws. I believe that the WVCDL is probably our best hope of getting these things sorted out. By that I mean getting some laws changed in our favor. Even though overall our firearms laws are better than lots of other states they could be better.

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    Hello from Virginia.

    Years ago I worked in Game law enforcement in the mid-west. With that in mind your milage may vary on this.

    Usually to support a charge of hunting we had to have more than just a person with a gun. As stated by others here, first and foremost the weapon should be a weapon that is primarily of the type people typically use for hunting. But usually we also had to have additional conditions. Things like finding someone in full Camo, face painted, sitting on a blind or stand, stalking and the like. Any or all of these things in various combinations were kind of a clue as to what was gong on. In other-words, we usually had to actually catch the person in the act of hunting (pursuing game).

    Usually if we found some person dressed like a hiker, without any other gear normally associated with hunting, just walking along a trail, we would let them go on their way. But keep in mind that the intent of the regulations is to make it easier to separate people who may be hunting from those that aren't. Lets face it, if you have a gun you are more likely to be hunting than if you are completely unarmed.

    There is significant conflict in MANY states between firearms laws in general and hunting regulations. In most states all game animals and other wildlife are property of the state, As such the regulatory authority and by extension the regulations are created under delegated authority from the state legislature. Under that delegated authority, hunting regulations carry the force of law.

    Unfortunately, it is very difficult to convince the legislature to temper the authority they have extended to game enforcement agencies. This is because most legislators feel the issues are complex and the regulation should be left to game experts.

    Generally speaking what you would want to find is some language in the codes that says something like "...not withstanding any other provision..."

    All of this is of course very much up to how the individual Enforcement agent wants to handle the situation when you encounter him. Basically they do not want to see people taking wildlife by illegal methods, or out of season, But that does not mean that you won't encounter the occasional guy that lets his discretion go to his head.

    I might point out (tongue firmly planted in cheek) that had you guys stayed part of Virginia when you had the chance, you might not have these problems.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Sorry if I'm digging up an old topic, but I just took an NRA home protection course (qualifies for concealed carry) and the prosecuting attorney and LEO (former WV State Police, current DNR Conservation Officer and local city LEO) stated that the DNR regulations about loaded weapons (specifically that you can only carry one firearm or bow in the woods) did not apply to -concealed- carry. Meaning your defense weapon was legal in addition to your long gun or bow.

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    You have to go back to the beginning of this thread and note the confusing nature of West Virginia's hunting statutes and the different approaches taken by the DNR and the State Police. See W.Va. Code§20-2-5, §20-2-6, §20-2-6a, §20-2-19a, §20-2-42l, and §20-2-46e. §20-2-6a protects the right of licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns notwithstanding the hunting laws, but OC (including OC in cars, which the State Police says is legal) is in the gray.

    Unfortunately for the nonlawyers here, our case law is not freely available to the public online like our statutes are. (Edit: slip opinions of cases from the fall 1991 term to the present are available on the state Supreme Court's web site, but they do not contain the reporter page numbering required when citing to these cases.)


    Although the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals adopted a very expansive view of the individual's right to keep and bear arms in State ex rel. City of Princeton v. Buckner, 180 W.Va. 457, 377 S.E.2d 139 (1988), the court greatly muddied the waters by upholding §20-2-5(10) (subsequently renumbered as subsection (9)) in State ex rel. West Virginia Div. of Nat. Resources v. Cline, 200 W.Va. 101, 488 S.E.2d 376 (1997) (links to slip opinions: majority -- Justice Maynard's dissent).

    Although not specifically addressed in the majority opinion of DNR v. Cline, Justice Maynard indicated in his dissent, which I highly commend for your reading,that the gun at issue was apparently being carried for hunting purposes. The majority upheld the limitation of how guns may be transported in vehicles as a reasonable exercise of the state's police power in light of numerous cases involving accidental discharges of guns carried for hunting purposes within vehicles. The Legislature finally enacted §20-2-6a in 2002 to clarify the legality of concealed carry but OC while engaging in Chapter 20-regulated activities will have to await future litigation or legislation. I would add that in his analysis of the scope of Chapter 61, Article 7 (West Virginia's weapons statutes), Justice Maynard omitted State v. Totten, 169 W.Va. 729, 289 S.E.2d 491 (1982), which defines "carrying" a weapon as "located either on the person or in such close proximity that it can be reached without a material change in his position and the weapon must be readily accessible when such person reaches to where it is located." Id. at Syllabus point 3 (Under Article VIII, §4 of our state constitution, the West Virginia Supreme Court uses a syllabus point systsm for stating legal points adjudicated in each case, so if you are from another state that does not use this system and ever have a case in West Virginia, understand that it is the syllabus within each case decided by our Supreme Court that the binding precedents are stated).

    I obviously agree with Justice Maynard that §20-2-5 does not square with our state constitutional language protecting the right to keep and bear arms; it should be noted with equal importance that these rules predate the WV RKBA Amendment and Buckner, and dates back to the days of our old, highly restrictive license to carry law under which legal hunting was the only means by which a person could legally be armed anywhere outside the home.

    For full disclosure, I note that I worked as a summer clerk for Justice Maynard this past summer and am personally supporting his candidacy for reelection to the court next year.

    One of the bills on our 2008 legislative agenda is a bill to clarify West Virginia's hunting statutes to ensure the legality of OC as well as exempt CHL holders from certain limitations on how long guns may be carried or transported; it is currently the 14th bill on our agenda, available by
    clicking here. Feel free to PM me if you have any comments about this or other bills on the agenda.
    James M. "Jim" Mullins, Jr., Esq.
    Admitted to practice in West Virginia and Florida.

    Founder, Past President, Treasurer, and General Counsel, West Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
    Life Member, NRA

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