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WV Legislature Altered Law Enforcement Response to Federal incidents

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CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the publication of policy guidelines as mandated by a state law passed in early 2021.

 
The policy guidance concerns a new statute, HB 2694, which says no West Virginia law enforcement agency on any level shall participate in enforcement efforts focused on federal gun control measures when those laws conflict with state laws regarding firearms.
 
“The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Yet, there is a deep concern on the part of many Americans that the federal government will try to encroach on our Constitutional rights through presidential executive orders or through acts of Congress. The publication of this guidance will help our state’s law enforcement understand what they can and cannot do in this respect under West Virginia statute.”
 
The guidance notes that enforcement of federal firearms laws is a federal responsibility. To this end, state law says that West Virginia police agencies and departments shall not participate in the prosecution of federal gun laws when those laws are inconsistent with state code.
 
For example, a West Virginia state or local law enforcement agency, department or officer may not assist federal authorities in executing an arrest warrant just for violation of federal gun laws when the person to be arrested may lawfully possess such firearms, firearms accessories or ammunition under state law.
 
The guidance addresses limitations on execution of similar federal search warrants, enforcement of orders under so-called “red flag” laws and detention or arrest during traffic stops and noise complaints.
 
According to the guidance, the new law also provides that no member of state or local law enforcement may be required to act in a law enforcement capacity to enforce a federal statute, executive order, agency order, rule or regulation determined by the West Virginia Attorney General to infringe upon citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
 
The guidance explains that law enforcement officers also cannot be terminated or be decertified as a law enforcement officer for refusing to enforce a federal statute, executive order, agency order, rule or regulation determined by the West Virginia Attorney General to infringe upon citizens’ Second Amendment rights.  
 
“This guidance from the Attorney General on HB 2694 will help protect West Virginia from new federal gun control schemes, and ensure our law enforcement officers are immune from retaliation for defending the Second Amendment rights of all West Virginians,” said Kevin Patrick, vice president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League.
 
“Law enforcement across West Virginia wholeheartedly supports the Second Amendment and lawful possession of firearms by our citizens and are happy to have joined the Legislature, the Attorney General and concerned gun groups in this effort to ensure that responsible firearm ownership is defended without question,” West Virginia Sheriffs Association Executive Director Rodney Miller said. “We, as citizens of this state, are concerned with overreach that could deny all of us the ability to lawfully possess firearms and utilize them as proud Mountaineers have always done responsibly.”
 
Art Thomm, state director of the National Rifle Association, said, “The NRA thanks Attorney General Morrisey and his staff for their work clarifying HB 2694 with this new guidance to ensure the rights of law-abiding gun owners in West Virginia remain intact.”
 
The policy guidance is posted on the Attorney General’s website (https://bit.ly/3zagUlE) and is being sent to state and local law enforcement agencies.
 
Read a copy of HB 2694 at https://bit.ly/3qAQfe4.



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