West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey is advising sheriffs in the state that they need to continue accepting and processing concealed carry applications, even if their offices are taking steps to limit exposure to the coronavirus.

The AG says one way departments can keep staff safe while continuing to ensure residents can exercise their right to carry is to simply accept applications by mail instead of requiring applicants to appear in person.

Morrisey sent a letter to sheriffs for all 55 counties in the state to provide information on how to process applications for and renewals of concealed handgun licenses during the ongoing state of emergency.

“Nothing in state code requires applicants for concealed handgun licenses to show up in person,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “While we want our residents to be safe and practice good social distancing, we also want to ensure they can still exercise their right to keep and bear arms.”

Applications may be accepted by mail or could be collected through a dropbox outside the sheriff’s office.

West Virginia is a constitutional carry state, which means that legal gun owners can carry without a license, but for residents who may work or shop in neighboring states like Virginia or Ohio, a concealed carry license is still necessary if they want to carry across the border.

In the letter sent to sheriffs, Morrissey points out that if their offices don’t continue to process concealed carry applications in a timely manner, it could pose a threat to reciprocity agreements with other states.

The issues raised in this letter are very timely because any failure to live up to the terms of our existing reciprocity agreements may cause West Virginia to lose recognition with other states. We cannot allow that to happen, and that means continuing to comply with our statutory responsibilities. We are in the midst of an unprecedented situation with unique challenges for everyone. I want to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude for your service – and that of your entire department – to the people of both your county and to the State of West Virginia during these trying days.

Morrissey also told sheriffs that while they can accept applications by mail, the issuance of concealed carry licenses will still require a trip to the sheriff’s office so applicants can be photographed. The Attorney General is recommending that sheriffs schedule appointments for anyone needing a photo in order to minimize in-person contacts and the number of individuals inside the office at any one time.

At least one county has already begun accepting applications by mail, even before Morrissey’s letter was sent. On Monday, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department announced the change to their policies, and it shouldn’t be long before the other 54 sheriffs in the state do the same.

It’s great to see Morrissey being so proactive in ensuring that the rights of West Virginia residents aren’t denied during the current coronavirus crisis, and I hope other attorneys general across the country follow suit.