CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leading voice of advocates of the Second Amendment is standing firmly behind the Constitutional Carry Bill which now sits on the desk of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Lawmakers in both chambers approved the legislation which removes the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed firearm in West Virginia for those over the age of 21.
Some have criticized the measure, including MetroNews “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval, but Amy Hunter with the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action said on MetroNews “Talkline” Friday in response the bill isn’t a far leap from what is already legal in West Virginia.The same people can legally carry a firearm openly.
“As long as you purchased your firearm legally and are not prohibited, that is legal to do,” said Hunter. “What this bill does is allow you to do that, but also wear a coat or put it in your purse.”
Hunter said although carrying firearms openly is legal, it’s not always understood that way. She claimed when somebody walks into an establishment with a gun strapped to their hip, even though it is legal, it often generates a nervous response. She said frequently law enforcement is needlessly called. This measure actually creates a safer environment for the armed and unarmed in the NRA’s estimation.
“Someone comes into that area and decides they want to inflict harm, that person (carrying a gun) is a target. That’s the first person a criminal would want to neutralize,” she said. “If you can carry concealed it not only keeps you safer, but it acts as a deterrent.”
Critics have raised objections to the lack of any training requirement in the new legislation for those over the age of 21. Under the bill those between the age of 18 and 21 would still have to complete a required training course and get a conceal carry permit. Although Hunter encouraged everybody to go through training, she thought the decision should ultimately be left up to the individual.
“People know best what kind of training they need. We feel you should be able to choose your training options,” she said. “There is a lot of training available and a lot of people do. But I emphasize again, already in this state people can openly carry with no training.”
Supporters of the Constitutional Carry Bill who sought the change were critical the current law was violation of Constitutional rights to self protection. They further charges the cost of a permit is an obstacle to exercising your Second Amendment right. Law enforcement groups would have favored waiving the fee if the training requirement were left in place. But Hunter said it was less about the fee and more about rights.
“The issue is the 45 day waiting period. This bill allows for immediacy,” said Hunter. “The problem with situations you find yourself in that you would need to use your firearms is they come out of nowhere and you can’t predict when they are going to happen. Or you feel like you’re under a threat and you may need to do this immediately.”
Tomblin administration officials indicated this week the governor was leaning toward a veto of the bill citing concerns raised by law enforcement. Legislative leaders said there would be time to try and override the veto if that were the case.