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Senate overrides veto of permitless carry bill

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Senate overrides veto of permitless carry bill
By Pamela Pritt Register-Herald Reporter

The state Senate joined with the House of Delegates Saturday in overriding the constitutional carry bill that allows all state residents 21 and older to carry a gun without a permit or training. The vote was 23 to 11.

The bill does not change the law concerning people who are prohibited from carrying firearms.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed SB 4145 Thursday with dozens of law enforcement officers in attendance, including Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner, who is also the president of the West Virginia Sheriff's Association.

Tomblin cited law enforcement safety, as well as public safety, in his veto message. Also, he said a $50 tax credit available for those who take training is "ill-advised and unclear."

A few Democrats opposed the override on the floor Saturday, perhaps swaying two Republicans who voted against it, Sen. Bob Ashley, R-Roane, and Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam. The Senate's original vote on the bill was 25-9.

Both gubernatorial candidates in the chamber, Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, and Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, voted in favor.

Democrat Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said he initially voted for the bill, but changed his mind after being contacted by the Huntington Police chief about an incident there where two Detroit men were carrying weapons without a permit. The men were not felons, but were found to have "just made a major drug deal."

Woelfel said border cities all over the state and those with Interstate access could be targeted by drug traffickers who could legally carry weapons.

But Republican supporters of the bill claimed victory.

Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said he didn't speak for law enforcement, "but for the people of West Virginia."

"This bill gives the people the ability to protect themselves without a fee," Blair said. Blair also noted that in parts of West Virginia, law enforcement officers may not be able to reach the scene of a crime quickly.

The House of Delegates overrode the veto Friday on a 64-33 vote.

Tomblin issued a statement shortly after the vote:

“West Virginia’s law enforcement officers have dedicated their lives to keeping us safe and helping us in times of need, and it’s disheartening that the members of the Legislature have chosen not to stand with these brave men and women — putting their safety and the safety of West Virginians at risk," Tomblin said.

"It’s unfortunate that the concerns of officers from every law enforcement branch in the state, including the West Virginia State Police and university campus police officers, have been ignored by today’s action,” the governor added.

The bill becomes law in 90 days.