Not deterred by the Constitutional carry bill that was vetoed last year by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the West Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a new piece of legislation that would bring permitless carry to the Mountain State for those over 21-years-of-age and allow residents between the ages of 18 and 21 to apply for a concealed carry permit.
The chief sponsor of this year’s Constitutional carry bill was 19-year-old Delegate Saira Blair, who cited concerns about her safety as someone who cannot currently carry under state law.
In a moving speech before the Legislature, Blair, a Republican, explained why she felt it was time for a change.
“I’m the only person standing in this chamber in the 18 to 21 year old age period. I can currently not get a permit to carry, and I’ll tell you right now, I am scared,” she said, as quoted by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
“I’ve received multiple death threats in the past year,” Blair continued. “I am scared. I’m not going to stop what I do on a daily basis; I’m not going to stop going to the mall, I’m not going to stop going to the movies, and I’m not going to stop going to church because of it, but I would feel safer as a law abiding citizen if I knew that I was able to protect myself.”
Ultimately, the House passed the bill with a 68-31 vote, with an added amendment that gives one a tax credit for any permit costs. It seems like a no-brainer, especially because residents over the age of 21 can openly carry without a permit under state law. If it’s lawful for one to carry openly without a permit, why should it be illegal for one to carry concealed without a permit?
Gov. Tomblin got word of the bill and on Monday, via Twitter, he said, “I will veto any concealed carry bill that does not take into consideration the concerns of law enforcement for the safety of our officers.”
However, the Democratic governor is on his way out. Tomblin cannot run for re-election in the fall because of term limits.
The bill now heads to the state Senate, where it will be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee.
From the perspective of gun rights advocates, the first hurdle was ensuring that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of permit issuance system. In short, that any state ban on concealed carry was overturned. Now that that’s been accomplished, the next frontier appears to be enacting Constitutional carry.
On this front, there has been some steady progress. Currently, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Wyoming and Vermont all haver versions of permitless carry on the books, with Kansas being the most recent after enacting a Constitutional carry bill last year.
The Utah Legislature is now reviewing a permitless carry bill and one just got shot down in Virginia earlier this month.
While Constitutional carry is not yet the new normal, it’s gaining momentum. After all, it’s hard to argue with the facts. That is when cries of “blood in the streets” turn out to be overblown after the passage of such laws, anti-gunners have zero credible ground to stand on to justify their opposition.