After the bill was vetoed last year, a proposal to allow carrying a concealed gun without a permit in West Virginia passed its first major test this week.
The Republican-led House of Delegates voted 68-31 on the concealed carry legislation. Several Democrats and Republicans broke party lines voting on the bill, which now heads to the Senate.
Currently, carrying a gun openly — like in a holster — is legal without a permit in West Virginia.
The bill would let people without a permit cover guns in public; for instance, by wearing a coat. Under the proposal, people ages 18 through 20 could carry concealed guns if they first receive a permit and undergo training with live firing. They would be eligible for a tax credit to pay for it.
Only a handful of states don’t require concealed carry permits.
Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year because of safety concerns from law enforcement, including the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association. He has said he would veto a bill that doesn’t address law enforcement’s reservations.
A simple majority of the House and Senate would be required to override his possible veto.
On Monday, Republicans cited the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms for why the bill should pass. Some delegates said the current system is about maintaining permit revenue for sheriffs’ offices.
“I have not found where (the country’s founders) supported a reasonable or a common sense restriction on this right,” said Del. Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.
Several Democrats said the permit system works and wondered what was driving the push to get rid of it.
“The irrational, unsubstantiated, lunatic fear that somebody’s going to take my guns shouldn’t drive us to pass legislation that makes sure that everybody has several,” said Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne.
This year’s bill would increase penalties for felonies committed with a gun, among other changes.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a group funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has spent “in the six-figure range” in its campaign against the bill, according to group spokeswoman Kate Folmar. That includes billboards, polling and digital and print ads.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin also came out in opposition to the bill last year.