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Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

West Virginia is not a point of contact state for NICS. West Virginia has no state law requiring firearms dealers to initiate a background check prior to transferring a firearm. In West Virginia, all firearms transfers by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, which enforces the federal prohibitions referenced above.1

Firearms transfers by private sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in West Virginia, although federal and state purchaser prohibitions still apply. See the Universal Background Checks in West Virginia section.


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  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at[]