CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “Public safety has to come first.”
That’s why Sen. David Nohe (R-Wood, 03) said he changed his vote and opposed the bill lifting the permit requirement to carry a concealed gun in West Virginia when it came back for a final vote in the Senate during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session.
Nohe had originally supported SB 347, but he said he reconsidered because of his own reservations about ending the gun training that’s part of the permit application process along with the widespread opposition to the bill from law enforcement officers.
“I never thought I would see a bill, especially if the NRA supported it, that I wouldn’t like, but we can’t be a rubber stamp,” Nohe said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Currently, adults in West Virginia can legally carry guns in the open, but a permit is required to carry guns that are not visible. This legislation would change that. Supporters have argued the fees charged for the permits tread on 2nd Amendment rights.
A former longtime law enforcement officer and Vienna mayor, Nohe has had a concealed carry permit for more than 40 years. Many times in the past, he’s lead efforts at the State Capitol to pass other gun legislation, but said he could not do so with this bill this year.
“To the gun people out there who’ve always sent me so much thanks for the bills I’ve passed, the first one that just extremely bothers my conscience, they turn against me,” Nohe said. “I don’t think they want a rubber stamp. I look at every single bill before I agree to it. This one kept me up all night.”
The House passed SB 347 71-29 while the Senate gave final approval to it with a 30-4 vote. In the Senate, Nohe was the only Republican in the “no” camp the second time. The proposed legislation is now awaiting action from Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says, if he was governor, he would sign the bill. “But I’m the attorney general and I have to focus on any of the legal questions that might come up after the fact,” Morrisey said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
He said those in his office did review the proposal from a reciprocity perspective.
“We saw that, in other states that pushed constitutional carry, there did not appear to be any negative implications to reciprocity, our agreement for citizens to enjoy their 2nd Amendment rights in other states,” Morrisey said.
Four other states do not require permits for concealed carry.