West Virginia has relatively strong laws to disarm hate, since state law generally makes it a firearm-prohibiting felony to commit a hate crime involving the use or threatened use of force.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in West Virginia
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access|
Very limited or no access
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access|
Very limited or no access
West Virginia’s hate crime statute makes it a felony to use force or threats of force to willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten a person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any legally or constitutionally protected right or privilege, including the right to be free from violence or intimidation, because of the victim’s color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, or sex.1 (Disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity are not included as protected categories).2) State law also specifies that hate motivation shall be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for any other offenses, although this does not extend the maximum sentence available for the offense or otherwise reclassify such offenses.3
West Virginia prohibits people from possessing a firearm if they have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison.4 Federal law similarly prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.5
Because West Virginia generally classifies hate crimes as felonies if they involve use or threats of violence against protected groups, people convicted under the state’s felony hate crime statute are generally subject to both state and federal firearm restrictions.6
However, West Virginia generally does not prohibit people convicted of violent misdemeanors from accessing firearms for any period of time, and also does not make misdemeanors punishable by a term long enough to trigger federal firearm restrictions.7 As a result, a conviction for a violent hate-motivated assault, battery, firearm brandishing, or stalking offense would generally not result in any firearm restriction in West Virginia unless the offense was prosecuted as a felony violation of the state’s law against using force or threat of force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with a person’s free exercise or enjoyment of protected civil rights on the basis of their perceived identity.
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- W. Va. Code Ann. § 61-6-21(a), (b). The law also makes it unlawful to attempt to commit such an offense, or to conspire to do so and assemble to teach or learn a method of intimidation. W. Va. Code Ann. § 61-6-21(b), (c).
- Several bills were introduced in 2020 to add these to the list of protected categories, though none were enacted. See S. 271, 84th Leg., Reg. Sess. (2020 W. Va.), S. 212, 84th Leg., Reg. Sess. (2020 W. Va.
- W. Va. Code Ann. § 61-6-21(d).
- W. Va. Code Ann. § 61-7-7(a)(1).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- W. Va. Code Ann. § 61-6-21(b), (c).
- West Virginia’s criminal code does not contain misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment of more than two years. Such misdemeanor convictions do not trigger federal firearm restrictions unless they are punishable by more than two years imprisonment under state law.18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).