In the Senate, legislation that would stop private businesses and associations from prohibiting guns in vehicles parked on their property advanced to passage stage on Friday, after the Senate adopted two amendments Thursday (HB 4187).
One change requires that firearms in vehicles be hidden out of view of passers-by. The second clarifies that the right to have firearms in vehicles does not apply to vehicles owned or leased to a private business or association.
The amendments were adopted on a voice vote, without debate.
Although titled the “Business Liability Protection Act,” the legislation has been criticized by business groups, including the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, which has called the bill “an unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion on any business owner’s property rights.”
“Let’s be clear on this — our objection has nothing to do with guns or West Virginians’ Second Amendment rights,” BIC Chairman Chris Hamilton said in a statement. “Our objection to HB 4187 is based on a fundamental right for business owners to be able to regulate their property as they see fit. We have a wide variety of business properties in West Virginia, many of which involve safety-sensitive materials and workplaces.”
Another bill (SB 244), set for a final vote in the House of Delegates on Friday, would change rules regarding guns on school property and at school-sponsored events.
Current law says someone at least 21 years old, with a valid concealed handgun permit, can have a handgun “in a motor vehicle in a parking lot, traffic circle, or other areas of vehicular ingress or egress to a public school” if, when they aren’t in the vehicle, the gun is “out of view from persons outside the vehicle, the vehicle is locked, and the handgun is in a locked truck, glove box or other interior compartment or in a locked container securely fixed to the vehicle.”
SB 244, which the Senate passed 30-0 Feb. 6, would clarify that if the vehicle as a whole is locked, the gun could be stored in an unlocked “glove box or other interior compartment.”
Also, while current law says it’s unlawful to “possess a firearm or other deadly weapon ... at a school-sponsored function,” SB 244 would add after “function” the words “that is taking place in a specific area that is owned, rented, or leased by the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, a county school board, or local public school for the actual period of time the function is occurring.”
Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood and the bill’s lead sponsor, said that meant “essentially if you let the school use your property without a lease or, you know, payment, then, you can still carry.”
Last year, a judge sided with the city of Charleston and ruled that when city recreation centers are leased by schools they are school facilities, and firearms can’t be carried there. The West Virginia Citizens Defense League had sued the city over its gun restrictions in rec centers.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has expressed concerns about SB 244, saying the city may disallow school programming in its rec centers or even shut down the centers if it becomes law.
On Thursday, two delegates whose districts include parts of the city — Charlotte Lane, a Republican, and Mike Pushkin, a Democrat — proposed amending the bill to specifically ban guns at “a municipally owned recreation facility at which school-sponsored activities occur during the times and at the areas set forth in a lease or other similar authorized agreement.” The amendment failed 18-79, with Delegates Frank Deem and John Kelly, both R-Wood, not voting.