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Sheriffs want photos on W.Va. pistol permits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Several West Virginia sheriffs want gun owners to have the option of placing their photo on a concealed weapons permit.

The photo won't be a requirement but will be an easy way to verify information and ensure safety, according to Putnam County Sheriff Steve Deweese, who believes it eventually will become a state law.

"It's more professional," said Deweese, who said the photo equipment would be ready to use in Putnam in the coming days. "It's not required, but I look for it to be soon.

"It's more identification for road-patrol deputies to identify a person on scene."

Kanawha County Sheriff Johnny Rutherford said the photo would be helpful to law enforcement, as more people are applying for a weapons permit.

"We're receiving more pistol permits than we ever have," Rutherford said. "This is one of those things that will become standard later.

"It makes sense. You have your picture on your driver's license -- it should be on something as important as your pistol permit."

Rutherford is in the process of purchasing the technology for Kanawha County, which would allow gun owners to pay a fee to have their photo on the permit. He plans to also allow other identifying characteristics such as height, weight and hair color to be placed on permits.

State law requires only a licensee's full name and address on a permit. The requirement to have Social Security numbers and identifying features included on the permits were removed several years ago.

Rutherford got the idea after touring the Raleigh County Sheriff's Department. Deweese consulted the Cabell County Sheriff's Department, which has been using the extra form of identification for years.

"We bought our own equipment in September," said Cabell County Chief Deputy Doug Ferguson. "Before, we had been doing it with a local photography studio."

Although state law requires a person carrying a gun to always possess their weapons permit and state-issued ID, "Every little bit helps," Ferguson said.

"I think it's a legitimate way for the police that encounter folks with a concealed weapon to verify it belongs to them," he said.

Deweese said the machine cost about $5,000 and was purchased with money from the concealed weapons permit fund.

Jacqueline Otto, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said the organization would keep an eye on any future legislation that could impact gun owners regarding the photos.

"We support uniformity in firearm laws statewide -- things easy for people to understand, easy for them to comply with," Otto said. "Secondly, we watch for people to impose unnecessary burdens. It shouldn't be too cumbersome on law-abiding citizens."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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