Last week, two gun rights bills prevailed in the West Virginia Legislature and are now on their way to Governor Tomlin’s desk. SB 347, a constitutional carry bill that would legalize the concealed carry of a handgun without a permit for all individuals in the state age 21 and up who are legally allowed to own firearms, passed the WV House by a margin of 79-21 and was supported by the Senate with 32 for and 2 against. The West Virginia Legislature also voted nearly unanimously in favor of another bill, SB 284, which would require the local chief law enforcement officer to sign off on purchases of Title II items such as fully-automatic weapons and noise suppressors, restricted under the National Firearms Act, for those who have passed background checks.
According to Guns.com, the dispute over Title II items stems from the fact that the law currently allows local chief law enforcement officers to deny transfers of ownership of Title II weapons and accessories between individuals who have passed a background check for arbitrary or personal political reasons. SB 284 would require CLEOs to approve the transfers. American Suppressor Association president Knox Williams pointed out, “When the National Firearms Act of 1934 was signed into law, computerized background checks did not exist. At that time, the CLEO signoff was the only means by which individuals applying for a transfer of an NFA item could be vetted. Since 1934, technology has come full circle, but the now antiquated CLEO signoff requirement has remained.” SB 284 would allow the background check to work as intended.
SB 347, on the other hand, simply allows law-abiding gun owners to carry a pistol or revolver in a concealed fashion for self-defense without obtaining a permit. Individuals would be permitted to carry in such a fashion in public and while traveling in automobiles. However, the bill prohibits gun owners from carrying at public schools, the WV Capitol, and courthouses within the state. The State Journal notes that the bill originally extended constitutional carry to any lawful gun owner over 18, but an amendment tweaked the minimum age to 21 with an exception for individuals between 18 to 21 who serve in the military.
US Senator Joe Manchin (D) opposes SB 347, as does the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association. Another opponent of the bill, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, made news when he was caught mocking supporters of the legislation with a sexually-provocative dance that offended a parent of a child who witnessed the gaffe.