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Gun bill passes WV House, on to Senate

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Gun bill passes WV House, on to Senate
By LACIE PIERSON, Herald-Dispatch

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday that would make it legal for citizens of the state to carry concealed weapons without a permit, as long as they meet certain requirements.

Delegates debated for about three hours through 14 proposed amendments before passing the bill by a vote of 68-31 with one member not present.

The bill will advance to the Senate for consideration.

The Committee Substitute for House Bill 4145 will allow for residents to carry the weapons for "self-defense purposes" without a permit if they are 21 years or older.

It currently is legal for West Virginia residents to carry a handgun in plain view, but they cannot have weapons on their person that are out of sight from the people around them without having a concealed carry permit.

The policy of being able to carry a concealed weapon often is referred to as "Constitutional Carry" by supporters.

If signed into law, West Virginia would become the eighth state in the United States that doesn't require its citizens to obtain permits to carry concealed firearms.

The other states that don't require concealed carry permits are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, Vermont and Wyoming.

If the bill is passed into law, West Virginians between 18 and 21 years old would be required to have a concealed carry permit to carry a weapon that isn't in plain view to the people around them.

Those young adults would be eligible for a tax credit for the cost of their training, but those who were still claimed as a dependent on their parents' taxes would not be eligible for the credit.

The bill also has a few changes to the requirements to obtain permits for the young adults who would be required to get them.

The bill would require gun handling instructors to have participants fire at least one live round of ammunition during the course, but the requirements otherwise remain the same for the courses.

The bill would provide road blocks for people who have substance abuse issues, mental health issues or convictions of domestic violence or other violent crimes from obtaining permits.

Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne, voted against the bill saying there had not been any public outcry to change the state's existing concealed carry law and that legislators were responding to fear that "somebody's going to take my guns."

"What we're doing today is responding to fear," Perdue said. "That's what we're really doing. We are accepting fear as our guide and we're going to put a gun in his hand. we're afraid of one another. We're terrified. We're afraid to go out into society without a gun in our pocket. If that's where we're going, then we need to rethink what the term 'society' really means."

Del. Saira Blair, R-Berkley, was the lead sponsor of the bill.

Blair, 19, is a student at West Virginia University, and she pointed out that she was underage to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

She told members of the chamber she'd received multiple death threats since she took office in 2015, and she wanted to be able to protect herself.

"I tell you now, I am scared," Blair said. " I'm not going to stop doing what I do on a daily basis. I'm not going to stop going to the mall. I'm not going to stop going to the movies. I'm not going stop going to church. I would feel better as a law abiding citizen if I could protect myself."

Some delegates said the current system is about maintaining permit revenue for sheriffs' offices.

"I have not found where (the country's founders) supported a reasonable or a common sense restriction on this right," said Del. Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.

In 2015, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a similar bill after the end of the regular legislative session, citing safety concerns from law enforcement.

The concealed carry bill was the 28th bill to pass the House, and House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, released a statement following the vote in which he said the House of Delegates has not passed any legislation that addressed job creation, fixing PEIA or finding money to fix the state's roads.

"Republicans are throwing common sense out the window in passing this extreme legislation," Miley said in the release. "The House of Delegates is spending yet another day passing legislation that will not create one job in West Virginia, fix one pothole or direct one dollar to help fix the PEIA crisis. It is time that the West Virginia Legislature buckles down and spends time on meaningful legislation that will help our state's residents instead of wasting more time."