Americans have higher rates of gun ownership than ever before, and West Virginia is one of the states that leads the way. According to a Gallup poll, 47% of American adults report having a gun in their home, up 2 or 3% from back in 1993. West Virginia adults ranked fifth in the nation, with 55.4% carrying a gun.
The reasons for the rise in gun ownership — or at least the reporting of gun ownership — are not clear, though one private gun dealer speculates that it could be because many feared that President Obama would sign legislation that restricted gun use. Other reasons could be that many people want to take advantage of concealed carry, or are simply more comfortable with letting others know that they have a gun. The Gallup poll found that only 26% of people were in favor of a legal ban on the possession of handguns.
Gun ownership is a time-honored tradition in West Virginia. Like anything worth having, it is worth doing right. That is why those who own a gun should know how to use it responsibly. West Virginia requires individuals at least 21 years old to apply for a license: this involves providing (1) a $75 licensing fee, (2) important information such as a Social Security number, (3) proof of residency, (4) proof of mental competence, (5) proof that he or she does not have a substance abuse problem, and (6) proof that he or she has not committed a prior felony or other acts of violence. Sadly, even with these requirements, West Virginia ranks in the national top 10 for gun-related deaths, with 15 deaths per 100,000 residents. Some of these deaths are accidents and some are from murder.
The Wolfe Law Firm has represented many people accused of illegal gun use both in federal court and in West Virginia Circuit Court. In West Virginia, two notable charges are wanton endangerment involving a firearm and felony possession of a firearm. Wanton endangerment involving a firearm, or “wantonly perform[ing] any act with a firearm which creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another” can carry up to five years in prison. Many people don’t understand the consequences of their actions when they use a gun, which is why they need an experienced West Virginia criminal defense attorney to represent their interests. A criminal defense attorney could work to have their charges reduced, depending upon the circumstances.
Accidental shooting could also lead to a civil lawsuit, with the injured party suing the shooter for negligence. The injured party would argue that the shooter had a duty of care to the injured party to operate the gun according to state regulations. The shooter breached his or her duty by operating the gun carelessly. The breach resulted in the injured party’s injury (getting shot) and the injured party suffered damage such as a gunshot wound. Besides being subject to the criminal code, the shooter could also be forced to pay a sum of money for the injured party’s medical expenses and pain and suffering. That is why if you or your loved one is in such a situation, you should find an attorney to represent your interests as soon as possible.