The Bitter-Sweet Story of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League

West Virginia Citizens Defense League T-Shirts
West Virginia Citizens Defense League T-Shirts
West Virginia Citizens Defense League
West Virginia Citizens Defense League

West Virginia-( Some of you have heard the story, and to some this may be new.

I joined the West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL) in 2008, and quickly pushed my way into the newly created role of Eastern Panhandle Rep. To say “newly created” may be a stretch, really, because it hadn't actually been created and it wasn't really a position.

My first real ‘event' with the WVCDL was an “open carry” lunch that I hosted at a local restaurant in Martinsburg – I remember it like it was yesterday, in fact. I had met Keith Morgan and Jim Mullins, but our relationship was “general acquaintances” – at best – at that point. During the planning and coordination of the event, I told the restaurant owner to plan for about 50 people and started to market the event to all the local gun shops and media outlets in the area. Everything was going great. The gun shops were interested, gun owners were interested, the media was interested, legislators and candidates were interested, and the restaurant owner was ecstatic.

Until Keith Morgan called.

To make the rest of that story short; the event went off without a hitch, we filled the restaurant to beyond capacity, and in the end, Keith and Jim realized there was a massive support structure in the Eastern Panhandle and the 3 of us started on a journey that none of us could have anticipated.

Fast forward a few years. Our founder had fallen ill, both Keith and I had encountered separate, yet similar life-changing events, and the WVCDL was – at best – in disarray. We were struggling to keep our membership happy, memberships were not being processed in a timely fashion, and shirts weren't making it out. We had great ideas for legislative advancements, but that's about where it was ending.

I was standing in a local gun shop (Tannermans) and chewing the fat on local happenings when the status of the WVCDL came into the conversation. The owner, a friend of mine, made mention that hundreds of people across the state were counting on us, the WVCDL, to protect gun rights. He also gave me the hard conversation that the current status of the group was starting to have a negative impact on our reputation.

I knew that we couldn't let this go on any longer. Something had to be done and done right then. I picked up my phone, walked to the other side of the gun shop, and called Keith. It was during that call that Keith and I made the decision to dedicate our time and resources into resurrecting the WVCDL. We promised each other that we would work tirelessly for the gun owners of West Virginia. We would live by our mission. We would protect and enhance the gun rights of West Virginians.

We developed a plan. Our first act was to immediately STOP all paid memberships. People loved our shirts, but we're not selling shirts – we're securing constitutional freedoms. Your freedom shouldn't be for sale, neither are our shirts. Ever. The next order of business was to restore a full Board of Directors and get a plan in place to move forward.

And move forward we did.

From that time, with the help and support of current and past WVCDL Board members, pro-gun legislators, and the best membership a person could ever ask for, the WVCDL has become the largest and most active gun rights organization in West Virginia!

We have co-authored and successfully lobbied for truly monumental legislation, including:

  • SB369: Allows WV to enter into concealed carry reciprocity agreements with any state that is willing.
  • HB2471: Prevents the confiscation of firearms or ammunition during a state of emergency, and makes it illegal to restrict carry or ownership of firearms during such.
  • SB317: Statewide Preemption by prohibiting cities from having or creating gun ordinances inconsistent with state law.
  • HB4186: NICS bypass with WV issued CHL
  • HB2636: CHL Privacy. WV CHL information FOIA exemption.
  • HB2515: Permitting defensive open carry of firearms in the woods and on vehicles without CHL.

Keith and I constantly chat about how lucky we have been to be the voice of our members and lawful gun owners across our great state. To be the voice for such a great group of people is something that I have cherished immensely. The opportunity to be YOUR voice has provided me with some of the greatest moments and opportunities of my life.

The latest in that list is the opportunity to take my show on the road, and assist others across our great nation to achieve similar success. To develop programs, relationships, and legislation that will continue to protect and enhance our rights provided under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

It is bitter-sweet that I announce that I have taken a full-time, professional position as a State Legislative Liaison for the National Rifle Association and will be stepping down from my position as Vice President and Sr. Lobbyist of the WVCDL as of 12/31/16. The WVCDL is in great hands. Now, more than ever before, we have the most active and engaged membership and board.

I have absolutely no doubt that our success will continue, but we need you. Each and every one of you.

Continue the fight. Seek new and engaging ways to excite other gun owners across West Virginia to join our organization. Do what you can to assist the Board of Directors with events. Help at the fairs. Reach out to your legislators and let them know of your pro-gun views. Ask for their support. SUPPORT YOUR WVCDL ENDORSED LEGISLATORS. It's a two-way street, folks.

In closing, I'd like to thank the past and present WVCDL Board of Directors, legislative friends, and dedicated membership for the opportunity to work for all of you. It has truly been a blessing that I cannot begin to put into words.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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Art Thomm

Vice President / Lobbyist

West Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.

About the WVCDL:

The West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, all-volunteer, grassroots organization of concerned West Virginians who support our individual right to keep and bear arms for defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use, as protected by the state constitution and the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Visit:

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Tim F
Tim F
3 years ago

Thank you sir for all that you and your fellow WV group has done for the great state of WV and the hole US of A. Every state should have a group such as this. Maybe KY will form a similar group like this. Hats off to WV !!!

3 years ago

I don’t even KNOW anyone in W Va, but this Texan wants to tell you a heart-felt thanks for your devotion and service to the rights of your fellow man. May God bless your efforts in your new position, and may your grandchildren thank you for what you’ve done.