CHARLESTON, W.Va — The House and Senate have now both passed legislation eliminating the requirement that a person obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed gun.  The House passed SB 347 Thursday 71-29 after several hours of debate over two days. The Senate passed the bill earlier 32-2. (Note: an earlier version of the story incorrectly stated the vote was 79-21.)

The NRA and other gun rights groups pushed the controversial legislation, arguing that the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, pay a $100 fee and also pay for training violate an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights.

“We’re here to protect our people from big government,” said Delegate Michael Ihle (R-Jackson). “This is a step in the right direction. It’s not perfect, but it gets us much closer on the 2nd Amendment to doing what’s right.”

Opponents countered that West Virginia police departments oppose the bill because they fear it will make their jobs more dangerous. They also say it is reasonable to require individuals to obtain training before receiving a concealed carry permit.

“At least we would know if someone had a concealed carry permit they would have gone through some training,” said Delegate Tim Manchin (D-Marion), who voted against the bill.

Current West Virginia law allows individuals to carry a weapon in the open, but requires the permit for concealed carry. Only four other states do not require permits for concealed carry.

Under the bill, residents can still apply for the concealed weapon permit in the state in order to maintain reciprocity with other states.

The House changed the Senate proposal by raising the age from 18 to 21 for a person to be able to carry concealed without a permit. Because of the House changes, the bill now goes back to the Senate. The legislation may end up in a conference committee to resolve differences.

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