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Do we really need Constitutional Carry?

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Do we really need Constitutional Carry?
Hoppy's Commentary | Hoppy Kercheval

The Legislature has passed and sent to Governor Tomblin the Constitutional Carry bill. HB 4145 eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Currently, West Virginians have to obtain a permit and go through a training course before legally concealing their gun, but that requirement will be eliminated under this bill, except for individuals between the ages of 18 and 21.

Governor Tomblin is expected to veto the bill, just as he did last year, and likely for the same reasons. “Law enforcement officers throughout the state have voiced overwhelming opposition to this bill. In light of their concerns and in the interest of public safety, I believe a veto is appropriate,” Tomblin said in his veto message last March.

But unlike last year, there will be enough time to override the veto this year and the votes are there in both chambers.

Supporters argue that the permitting process is an undue burden on their 2nd Amendment rights. They chafe at having to go through the county sheriff and pay a $100 fee to get their permit to exercise their freedom.

Notably, the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association agreed to eliminate the fee, if they could retain the permitting process and the training for gun owners.  “For safety reasons, we think training is THE most important thing when carrying a weapon,” said association executive director Rodney Miller.

It’s hard to argue with that logic. But the goal of Constitutional Carry advocates is to advance a pure interpretation of the 2nd Amendment–no taxes, no fees, no paperwork, no permits.

That ignores the reality that all rights have limitations.  The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the most ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment. It was Scalia who authored the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision that affirmed an individual’s right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes.

But even Scalia recognized boundaries.

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” he wrote in Heller. “From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts rou­tinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

West Virginia is a “shall issue” state, unlike other states where applicants may have to justify their need for a concealed carry permit. It’s difficult to imagine how an application and a training course, which benefits the applicant as well as the general public, amount to unconstitutional requirements.

Responsible gun owners, who make up the vast majority of West Virginians, will still get training or follow appropriate safety procedures.  Many will still want a concealed carry permit because it will be honored in states with which West Virginia has reciprocal agreements.

However, there will now be an opportunity for the inexperienced to buy a gun, stuff it inside their coat and walk down the street.  No one that person comes in contact with, including the police, will be the wiser or be able to act accordingly.

And no good will come of that.