This week from Charleston
The 2015 legislative session has come to a close, and I happy to be home. This year I was unable to make it home for a six-week period due to committees being called in on weekends. For me, the session was a challenging in many ways, and I look forward to reflecting back on the session over the next few months and highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly. While we are still waiting to hear which bills get signed or vetoed by the Governor, one bill that deserved a veto has already received it. SB 357, the permitless concealed deadly weapon bill, would have repealed repeals the requirement that people over 21 years acquire a permit and safety training to carry and conceal a deadly weapon. Additionally, this bill would legalize the carrying of deadly weapons by non-residents without a permit or training.
This bill was highly controversial, and many of the legislators who voted for it, did so out of fear that their NRA rating would be affected. From my count, I only had one constituent call in support of the bill, although I heard from at least one hundred in opposition to it. I spoke to Sheriff Dougherty and police throughout the state and heard their concerns about how this will put law enforcement at greater risk. On the house floor, I offered an amendment to to require safety training, even if there were no permit process. The amendment failed and the bill passed. Del. Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan), who is the Majority Leader, and I were the only Eastern Panhandle delegates to vote against the bill.
While considering the bill in the Judiciary Committee, I asked for any evidence or testimony that the current law was not working. I asked to hear from anyone who had been aggrieved by having to get a permit. Although the room was full of supporters of the bill, no one volunteered to speak or offer that evidence. I have not heard on suggestion that the current law does not work.
I had grave concerns about what this bill was intended do and what it may do unintentionally. Under West Virginia law, deadly weapon are defined not just as pistols, but also other weapons like knives and switchblades. Most importantly, the statutory definition “includes explosive, chemical, biological and radiological materials.” That’s right, the bill would have legalize concealed bombs. I cannot imagine a bill more dangerous than this one. This is one bill the Governor got right in his veto.