WV lawmakers want to eliminate concealed carry gun law

Proposals liberalizing gun laws in West Virginia have a tendency to move through the state Legislature faster than a speeding bullet.

There are a couple of reasons for that:  West Virginia is a strong Second Amendment state with a high percentage of hunters and gun owners, and lawmakers are terrified of getting poor marks from the National Rifle Association.

That’s why SB 347 cleared the state Senate 32-2 with bipartisan support and is now up for consideration in the House. The bill eliminates the current requirement of a law enforcement-approved permit to carry a concealed firearm.

If it passes and is signed by Governor Tomblin, West Virginia would join Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Wyoming and Vermont as states that do not require a concealed carry permit.

Supporters of the legislation, including the NRA and the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, argue that West Virginia’s current gun laws have an unintended consequence. West Virginia is an “open carry” state, meaning residents can wear a gun in plain view, but if that person puts on a coat covering the gun and they don’t have a concealed carry permit, they are violating the law.

They argue that SB 347 will simply protect those individuals from accidently violating the law.  Technically that’s true, but one has to wonder how many instances we have in this state of 1) a person carrying a gun in the open in public, 2) that same person then covering up the gun with a coat, and 3) the police arresting that person for not having a concealed carry permit.

Additionally, the WVCDL argues that a person should not have to obtain a permit and pay a fee to exercise their constitutional right.  However, the purist argument fails because even God-given rights have limitations.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller which said the Second Amendment does, in fact, enunciate the individual’s right to keep and bear arms.  However, Scalia added that the right is not unlimited.

“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on the longstanding prohibitions on possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” Scalia wrote.

West Virginia’s concealed carry law is hardly intrusive.  Applicants fill out a two-page form and pay $100 in permit fees.   When all conditions are met, the county sheriff shall (emphasis added) issue the permit.

The current law does require applicants to “complete a training course in handling and firing a handgun.”  Notably, the first option listed in the law is “Any official National Rifle Association handgun safety or training course.”

Anecdotally, I’ve talked with several individuals with concealed carry permits who value the training. They worry that without the requirement, an 18-year-old* will be able to legally buy a gun, stuff it in his pants, put on his jacket and walk down the street, all without any instruction.

Our current concealed carry law does not pose a dilemma, nor does it infringe on the Second Amendment rights that the people of West Virginia value and want to protect.  SB 347 is a solution looking for a problem.

*Current state law requires an individual to be at least 21 to qualify for a concealed carry permit.  Individuals 18 or older can qualify if they are required to carry a concealed weapon as a condition of employment.  Additionally, SB 347 would not change reciprocity.  West Virginians would still be able to obtain a concealed carry permit that is recognized in reciprocal states.

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