West Virginia House of Delegates members will take up at least five amendments Monday intended to temper a bill that would allow adults over 21 to carry concealed firearms without a state permit, background check or gun safety training (HB 4145).
The bill was advanced Friday to a third reading with amendments pending, a timesaving measure for legislators heading home Friday afternoon for the weekend.
Meanwhile, a poll released Friday shows that 84 percent of likely West Virginia voters and 87 percent of gun owners support or strongly support the existing law requiring a state permit and gun safety training to carry concealed firearms.
Conducted by SurveyUSA from Jan. 29-31, the survey of 1,000 adult residents included 821 who said they are likely to vote in the 2016 elections. The survey was commissioned by Everytown for Gun Safety and the West Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Asked if they support or oppose the existing concealed-carry law requiring permits, 64 percent surveyed said they strongly support, 20 percent support, 7 percent oppose and 7 percent strongly oppose. Two percent were undecided.
Support or strong support was high among men (82 percent), women (86 percent), Democrats (89 percent), Republicans (73 percent), gun owners (87 percent) and concealed-carry permit holders (84 percent).
Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, said Friday that he has seen polls showing strong support for the existing concealed-carry law but said they do not reflect the opinion of most delegates.
“I’ve seen the polls, but the people here in this chamber, and most of the emails I’ve gotten on this particular issue, are predominately in favor of passage of that bill,” Shott said. “I can only tell you that, in this body, the majority have strong and vocal support for that bill, enough to put it back on the agenda.”
Shott voted against the 2015 version of the unlicensed concealed-carry bill, which passed the House 71-29, but was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
“This is an agenda driven by organizations that are disconnected with public opinion,” Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, said of the Legislature’s support for the bill despite strong public opinion against it.
“People here are extremely concerned about their [National Rifle Association] rating,” said Skinner, who is sponsoring several amendments to temper the bill. “If legislators listen to their constituents and vote against the bill, that will lower their NRA rating.”
Skinner has amendments pending that would:
n Retain the gun safety training requirement to carry a concealed firearm;
n Remove a provision in the bill that would allow people ages 18 to 20 to obtain concealed-carry permits, keeping 21 as the minimum age to obtain the permits;
n Raise the penalty for violating concealed-carry laws from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Other pending amendments would limit unlicensed concealed-carry to state residents, and would require people who carry a concealed firearm to have casualty insurance.
Issuing a statement with the release of the poll, Dee Price Childers, of the West Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action, said, “The vast majority of West Virginians, of all political parties, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, have no interest in dismantling one of our state’s most fundamental public-safety standards.
She added, “As a mom, I wouldn’t want to take my children out in public to places where someone who has not passed a background check and has had no safety training could be carrying a hidden, loaded handgun. For that basic, common-sense reason, I urge lawmakers to reject HB 4145 and similar legislation.”
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304 348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.