Gov. Tomblin vetoes concealed carry bill citing public safety concerns

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Permits will still be required to carry concealed guns in West Virginia. On Friday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed SB 347 which would have ended the mandate currently in state law requiring anyone over the age of 21 to have a permit to legally carry a gun that’s not visible.

“We’ve got to put public safety first,” Tomblin said of his decision on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

In his veto message to lawmakers, Tomblin said “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.”

The House passed the bill 71-29 while the Senate gave final approval to it with a 30-4 vote during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session despite opposition from law enforcement officers throughout the Mountain State.

Supporters had argued the permit requirement, which includes mandated training and $100 fees, treads on 2nd Amendment rights.

“There comes a time when you’ve got to make a decision and it’s one that, even since the bill’s passed, I’ve had a lot of legislators call me and urge me to veto the bill,” Tomblin said.

“Even though the numbers may have said one thing on the board, I think there’s different feelings among the legislators when it comes down to actually signing the bill into law or vetoing the bill.”

Del. Mike Folk (R-Berkeley, 63) said Tomblin should have signed the bill. He dismissed claims that it would have put law enforcement officers at risk. “They assume (already) that every person is armed, so the safety issue is not a good argument,” Folk said.

He is promising to bring the proposal up again during next year’s Regular Legislative Session.

“We’ll do it again next year and we’ll make sure we do it early enough that he can veto it next year and the same thing that happened with the pain capable bill will happen with this bill,” Folk said, referencing this year’s legislative override of Gov. Tomblin’s veto of the bill that would have banned abortions in West Virginia after 20 weeks.

Del. Rupie Phillips (D-Logan, 24) supported the legislation in the House of Delegates and promised to do so again.

“We spent a lot of time on this issue and I hate that we’re going to have to spend time again on it at the beginning of next year’s session,” Phillips said.

Monongalia County Sheriff Al Kisner, vice president of the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, applauded Tomblin’s decision.  “I think we need more time to sit down, with everybody at the table, and decide what we all can live with and what we can live without,” said Kisner.

Guns can still legally be carried openly without a permit in West Virginia.

Currently, four states do not require permits for concealed carry.

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