Thursday, February 02, 2006

Governor Ignores Requests from Other States to Establish Concealed Handgun License Reciprocity Agreements

Back in October, I first wrote about West Virginia having concealed handgun license reciprocity agreements with only 2 states (Story 1 Story 2). Recently, I conducted an e-mail survey of the licensing agencies in other states to determine whether they had attempted to obtain a reciprocity agreement from our governor.

Some states responded to my inquiries; some did not. A few states said they could not currently recognize West Virginia licenses because our laws did not meet varying qualifications for recognition in the other state. However, many states said they had repeatedly contacted West Virginia officials only to hear no response.

Replies from Other States

Typical was the response I got from the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services:

Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2006 9:49 AM

Good morning, Mr. Mullins:

Yes, as a matter of fact, we have made repeated attempts to establish reciprocity with your state. We first made contact with someone in Governor Underwood's administration after our Legislature created our reciprocity provision in 1999. We made two offers of reciprocity during Governor Wise's tenure in office. Finally, we wrote a letter to Mr. James Spears, the Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety in February of last year offering reciprocity with Florida. We received no response to our offer.

Our reciprocity provision is very straightforward. We will honor the concealed carry licenses issued by another state if the authorities in that state will agree to honor concealed carry licenses issued by the State of Florida. I know that your governor has the authority to enter into reciprocity agreements. We need only an acknowledgment from him to establish such an agreement.

Please let me know if you need any additional information.

Ken Wilkinson
Management Analyst
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Division of Licensing
Post Office Box 6687
Tallahassee, Florida 32314-6687
TEL: 850-245-5665
FAX: 850-245-5655

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Mullins
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 6:20 PM
To: DOLWeb Questions/Inquires
Subject: concealed weapons permit reciprocity

To whom it may concern:

I am a resident of West Virginia and have a West Virginia concealed handgun license. Has there been any effort to reach a reciprocity agreement between Florida & West Virginia or any effort to extend unilateral recognition to West Virginia licenses? West Virginia's concealed handgun permit law is contained in Chapter 61, Article 7 of the WV Code and the Governor of West Virginia is vested with the power to enter into reciprocity agreements on behalf of the state. West Virginia law includes completion of a handgun training course & a criminal background check among the required qualifications for obtaining a concealed handgun permit.

Your prompt response would be appreciated.


James M. Mullins, Jr.

Another response in the same mold came from Colorado, which I sent an e-mail nearly identical to the one I sent Florida. Colorado sent 2 responses, both of which follow:

Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2006 5:59 PM

Mr. Mullins,

Since 2003, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has contacted the other 49 states on an annual basis in order to verify the current concealed carry reciprocity status with each state. Pursuant to Colorado law, our state does not evaluate the concealed carry programs of other states, as Colorado statute passes the authority and jurisdiction to establish reciprocity to the other states.

Currently, the state of West Virginia does not recognize the validity of Colorado concealed carry permits. Therefore reciprocity cannot be established with West Virginia until they recognize Colorado concealed carry permits as being legal and valid in their state.

As our law passes reciprocity authority to the other states, I would suggest bringing your concerns to the attention of the West Virginia issuing authorities and inquire as to their current reasoning why they do or do not recognize the validity of Colorado concealed carry permits at this time.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding this matter.

James G. Spoden
InstaCheck/CCW Unit Supervisor
Colorado Bureau of Investigation
(303) 239-5850

Sent: Friday, January 27, 2006 6:16 PM

Dear Mr. Mullins,

I believe that James Spoden (a supervisor who works for me) responded to a similar email, but just in case I'm mistaken: Colorado law does not authorize anyone to negotiate reciprocity agreements. Instead, our statute contains a provision that states that we will automatically recognize valid permits of other states (issued to person 21 years of age & older) only if the other state recognizes Colorado permits as valid in that state. If and when the state of West Virginia recognizes Colorado permits, we will do the same automatically.

In order to keep law enforcement and the public informed, we send letters yearly to our contacts in the other 49 states to inquire about reciprocity. We have sent letters to the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, and to the Governor's office in June 2004 and June 2005 (respectively). We have never received any response to our inquiries.

Susan Kitchen
Agent in Charge
Colorado Bureau of Investigation
(303) 239-4235

Louisiana simply said, "We tried contacting someone but got no reply."

Manchin Does Not Respond

On November 5, 2005, I wrote a letter to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to call his attention to the need for him to contact the appropriate officials in other states and enter into reciprocity agreements with those states so West Virginia concealed handgun licenses will be honored in those states and vice versa. After about 2 months, there was no response.

On December 31, 2005, I wrote another letter to the Governor. Given the events of the past month, I might be able to understand why I have heard no response. However, it has now been almost three months since I first wrote to the Governor.

I am simply befuddled at why Governor Manchin or his staff will not address this issue. The governor has been a longtime support of gunowners' rights and was endorsed in 2004 by the NRA over his equally pro-gun Republican opponent. 38 states now have "shall issue" concealed handgun license laws and over 30 provide for some form of reciprocity with other states to reduce the need for a person to obtain a license in each state he or she visits.

Action Needed

The governor has the power to enter into reciprocity agreements with most states that issue concealed handgun licenses. There are 11 states that unilaterally honor West Virginia licenses whose licenses do not receive recognition in West Virginia. With a change in Pennsylvania's laws that will take effect soon, 12 states--including Colorado, Florida, and Louisiana--have provisions in their laws that provide for the automatic recognition of licenses issued by a state that honors that state's license. A few other states have different reciprocity procedures.

The inaction of both the current governor and his predecessor has resulted in West Virginia concealed handgun licensees not receiving recognition of their licenses in over a dozen states whose only condition for recognizing our licenses is that we recognize theirs. This same inaction also means licensees of the 11 states that have graciously extended unilateral recognition to West Virginia licenses cannot legally carry a concealed handgun while visiting West Virginia. For a West Virginian to legally carry a concealed handgun in most states, the only option available is to obtain a nonresident license from Florida, which is honored in over 30 states but costs $117 every 5 years; this is on top of the $90 a 5-year West Virginia license costs.

Absent action by the governor under our current laws, the next solution for this problem is for the Legislature to pass a unilateral recognition law to automatically recognize all other states' licenses without requiring any action on the part of West Virginia officials. Just by enacting a unilateral recognition law, the number of states in which West Virginia concealed handgun licenses are recognized would double.