Guns in W.Va.: Permits, politics and the press

August 14, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

Gun Violence Grave Markers

The Washington Monument stands behind thousands of grave markers erected in a mock cemetery on the National Mall in Washington, Thursday, April 11, 2013, to honor the victims of gun violence . (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

There’s an interesting story making the rounds in West Virginia about a reported increase in the issuance of concealed weapons permits across our state. Here’s how it starts:

The number of concealed weapons permits issued annually in West Virginia has more than quadrupled in the past five years.

In 2009, county sheriffs’ departments issued 11,160 permits allowing residents to carry concealed handguns in most public places. In 2013, that number had jumped to 44,981.

The largest increase was from 2012 to 2013, when the number of permits issued annually increased by more than 15,000, up from 29,712 in 2012.

Those numbers, compiled by the West Virginia State Police, are only the permits issued each year. A permit is valid for five years, so the total number of West Virginians licensed to carry concealed handguns is much higher.

Those numbers, compiled by the West Virginia State Police, represent all active permits. The number includes both new permits and renewal permits.

While some may have been revoked or surrendered, a total of 126,514 permits were issued in the five years from 2009-13.

CORRECTION: In Thursday’s West Virginia Press Association article on concealed weapons permits quadrupling over the last five years, it was the total number of active permits that quadrupled over five years, not just new permits, as was incorrectly stated in the article. Renewals are included in that total number of active permits that quadrupled. The numbers represent the total number of active permits.

The story is getting a fair amount of play, in large part because it was reported and written by Kris Wise Maramba for the West Virginia Press Association, meaning it’s likely to start appearing in newspapers around the state (see here, here and here for examples so far).  The story shows what is clearly an important and newsworthy trend:

gun permit graphic

Gazette graphic by Tye Ward

But what does this trend mean for West Virginians? Well, the media spokesman for the West Virginia State Police has plenty to say about that:

“What you have to remember is these are law-abiding citizens going through the proper process,” said Lt. Michael Baylous, spokesman for the West Virginia State Police. “The criminals don’t go through the proper process to get a permit.

“Do we encounter more people in traffic stops who have weapons? That might be fair to say,” Baylous said. “But nine times out of 10, they do the right thing and inform us they’re carrying.”

Baylous said his experience reviewing incident reports from around the state causes him to believe the number of shootings classified as “self-defense” has increased in recent years, but specific data was not immediately available.

“Just from what I’ve seen, I have seen more people standing up and protecting themselves,” he said.

Baylous said he believes national attention to high-profile violent crimes might be spurring more people to want to arm themselves in public.

“It’s clear to me, just from the position I’m in, the moral fabric of our country seems to be wearing thin, and you see more heinous acts being committed each day,” he said. “(Carrying a concealed weapon) is a personal choice, and I see why more people might be making that choice.”

While Lt. Baylous may not have any data immediately available to back up his opinion, we do know — as has been reported on this blog and in the Gazette (see here, and here) — that West Virginia has one of the highest firearms fatality rates in the country.

We also know that studies show more concealed weapons means more crime, for example, or a discussion of West Virginia’s terribly high suicide rate. We know that having guns in a home is a serious risk factor for completing a “successful” suicide. And we know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the safest home for children and teens is one without guns, We know that West Virginia consistently receives poor rankings for having weak gun safety laws.

Of course, these sorts of facts are often left out of the press coverage of gun issues in West Virginia.  The broader issues raised are most certainly left out of daily coverage most state newspapers do about crime, or about accidental shootings or about suicide.  Stories like the one the Gazette’s Erin Beck did recently about our state’s domestic violence problem and its roots in our gun culture are few and far between, as is media coverage that points out most state residents favor stronger gun safety measures like the tougher background checks pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin.

Our statewide media’s frequent silence is one of the reasons that political campaigns like the Senate race between Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant can talk so much about the candidates’ love for guns and the Second Amendment, yet say so little about what either candidate would do about West Virginia’s huge problem with gun-related deaths


12 Responses to “Guns in W.Va.: Permits, politics and the press”

  1. Bob Kincaid says:


    There’s another thing neither Lt. Bayous nor anyone else can tell us, namely when and under what circumstances one of those Lawful Gun Owners to which he referred will drop the “L” and become instead an Awful Gun Owner.

    Virtually anyone in our country with a pulse may, by hook or by crook, obtain a firearm, and no one can predict why any one of them will put it to heart-stoppingly effective use.

    Even the police, who are subjected to at least some degree of psychological screening, can become walking nightmares. Consider, then, what the odds must be for the possibility of a random psychological break-point in a general population of individuals whose gun ownership takes into no consideration at all their likelihood of snapping and unleashing misery upon some other law-abiding citizen.

  2. Danny Jones says:

    Senator Manchin deserves credit for his efforts on background checks. It is a lonely fight when you are into it with the “carry everywhere” crowd. We are still in litigation with the city’s case.

  3. Ken Bryant says:

    I believe in back ground checks and support it. I am a lawful gun owner and hunter. Do go to the shooting range and shoot a lot because it is something I enjoy. Taking my Conceal Carry class next week also. It is a right that we have in this country, if you have all the proper clearences. And I plan on exercising every right I have.

  4. jim says:

    Ken, I, too plan to exercise every right the Constitution affords me. Killing my fellow man is not one of those. Me first is not a valid excuse.

  5. Delford Chaffin says:

    You state that studies show…but do not name the studies or state who paid for the studies. You always complain about what the NRA is spending money on, what about Bloomberg and others? They are fighting just as hard and just as biased. Be fair in your reporting.

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Delford Chaffin,

    click on the links, and they will take you to the studies, or to previous blog posts that have links to the studies.


  7. Bob massie says:

    “More concealed weapons means more crime” is a great sound bite but it really provides little in the way of true analysis. First, where is the proof of causation, that is the evidence that the carrying of a weapon caused the increase in crime. Perhaps there is a correlation, but maybe it’s because increased crime causes people to exercise their right to protect themselves more often. And, your sound bite doesn’t specify whether the increased concealed weapons are legal or illegal. The truth is that West Virginia’s crime rate is one of the lowest in the nation and has been for years. And the easiest way to see if allowing law abiding citizens to carry firearms truly increases crime as you suggest is merely to look at the places that have the highest crime rates in the US -Chicago, DC, Detroit, etc., and you will notice an amazing correlation between strict gun laws and higher crime rates. The better sound bite to me is “when you make guns criminal only criminals will have guns.”
    But really all of this misses the true point which is that the right of our citizens to bear arms was so important to our founding fathers that it trails only freedom of the press numerically in the specifically enumerated rights contained within the Bill of Rights. So, you have the right to say anything you want here, and i respect that right immensely and would defend it against all. And I have the right to bear arms. They both are important rights upon which this great nation was founded.

  8. Mike H says:

    We also know that studies show more concealed weapons means more crime,

    Except we don’t, and the study you cited does not state that. Nice try but you should be sure your link actually supports your argument before posting it.

  9. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Mike H,

    Thanks for reading and for your comment.

    The link in that statement goes to this blog post, which in turn cites this study, … here’s the conclusion from the abstract of the paper:

    “Conclusions. Our results imply that expanding the settings in which concealed carry is permitted may increase the risk of specific types of crimes, some quite serious in those settings. These increased risks may be relatively small. Nonetheless, policymakers should consider these risks when contemplating reducing the scope of gun-free zones.”


  10. Shawn M. says:

    Ken, with all due respect, I think you are cherry-picking the sound bites that fit your worldview. The study does go on to say that license holders as a group are overwhelmingly law-abiding – much more so than the general population. That in the RARE instance that they DO commit a crime, the crime is serious, seems to me to rather insignificant, and certainly not the type of data that supports a statement that more ccw permits means more crime (quite the opposite when you consider their law-abiding nature). You’d have to be quite naive to believe that creating more “gun-free-zones” would lead to less crime….on the contrary; it simply leaves good people fewer options to defend themselves against those who do not, and will not follow the law.

  11. Walker P says:

    Drugs are illegal but can be obtained on just about any corner in Charleston. If in your way of thinking, guns are outlawed. criminals will still be in possession of them and put the public in greater danger. Just look at what happened in the parking lot of a Target Store just days after saying that they did not want legal gunowners to bring their guns on their property, a customer was robbed at gun point in the parking lot.

  12. Delford Chaffin says:

    I followed the link and found “Holders of a CHL in Texas in 2001 to 2009 were almost universally a law-abiding population, like most individuals who shared their demographic characteristics,” Can the same be said for those who illegally carry a gun? Note, I intentionally said gun as opposed to weapon.

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