CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would allow employees to have guns in their vehicles when they park in their business parking lot is up for passage in the state House of Delegates.
HB 4187, also known as the Business Liability Protection Act, has passed the House Judiciary Committee and now heads to the floor.
The bill was met with opposition during a public hearing Wednesday morning at the state Capitol.
Sydney Smith with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence said this is bad timing because the mass shooting in Florida is still fresh on many minds.
“While our nation is grieving over the senseless loss of 17 children who didn’t make it home from school last week, we are talking about protecting the rights of employees to bring their guns to work and lock them in their vehicles,” she said.
Tonya Thomas, who also belongs to the coalition, said she’s “disappointed” and “frustrated” that state lawmakers are proposing to overrule “common sense work place gun violence prevention measures.”
But Delegate Geoff Foster (R-Putnam) said this is a good bill for supporters of the Second Amendment.
“On top of that, if protects the personal property rights of what can and can’t do with the personal property being your own vehicle,” he said.
Currently, an employer can prevent any person from carrying or possessing a firearm or other deadly weapon anywhere on the property. Individuals who refuse to relinquist the firearm can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Aaron Dunn, a West Virginia resident, said it should stay that way. He’s urging lawmakers to reject the bill.
“I argue that it will remove one more safe place in our great state. Businesses should be able to regulate their own property and make their own decisions about how best to keep their employees safe,” he said.
Supporters say this is not a new concept. Patrick Moore, another state resident, said this bill just refers to a different parking lot.
“You trusted us with constitutional carry, you trusted us with school parking lots, you trusted us with the Capitol parking lots. Why can’t you trust us in employer parking lots?” he asked.
Mark Harmen, a gun owner in West Virginia, spoke out against the bill saying it’s possible for someone to steal a firearm from a vehicle.
“Cars are one of the most popular targets for firearm thieves. Of the cities for which we’ve been able to obtain data, nearly one in five guns reported stolen were taken from vehicles,” Harmen said.
For Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), she said the bill won’t be good for business recruitment.
“I think this bill dooms our ability to recruit new businesses to our state,” she said.
The bill also provides immunity for the employer if anyone brings a legal action because of the weapon.