West Virginia Workplace Security policies are undergoing revisions to accommodate a new state law that prohibits private businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities from prohibiting firearms in personal vehicles parked on their property.

That law (House Bill 187), which went into effect June 8, is leading the state Division of Personnel to revise the Workplace Security policies, which had prohibited firearms and other deadly weapons at the state Capitol Complex and all other state government workplaces.

“We’re adding a section allowing individuals to have firearms in compliance with that law,” Joe Thomas, personnel deputy director, said.

The Personnel Board is expected to finalize changes June 21, adding an exception to the prohibition on deadly weapons on state property, which states, “Unless otherwise prohibited, any person lawfully allowed to be present in the area may keep a lawfully possessed firearm stored out of view, locked inside or locked to a personal motor vehicle.”

Currently, the Workplace Security policy has an exception to the deadly weapons prohibition for law enforcement personnel acting in an official capacity.

The board also is revising the Workplace Security policy that allows searches of state employees’ work areas, lockers or desks if there is a reasonable suspicion that an employee has a deadly weapon on state premises.

Previously, under that policy, employees’ personal vehicles on state property also were subject to search if there was reasonable evidence of a present danger involving firearms.

Under the new law, the policy is being changed so that only law enforcement officers will have authority to search employee vehicles under those circumstances.

“If they call in law enforcement, they would have the ability to do that,” Thomas said.

The new policy also prohibits employers from asking state employees or visitors if they have firearms in vehicles parked on state property.

While the legislation passed both houses by wide margins, it did have detractors, including several business groups. The state Business and Industry Council said the legislation was, “an unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion on any business owner’s property rights.”

In the House of Delegates, Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, cast a rare vote against a guns bill, saying he believed the legislation will hurt West Virginia’s ability to compete for manufacturing and chemical processing plants.

Shott pointed out that, unlike similar laws in other states, the West Virginia legislation does not permit exceptions for chemical plants, oil and gas refineries, and other manufacturing facilities that require secured areas.

Others raised public safety issues about having firearms readily accessible by employees, customers or visitors in the event of workplace altercations or arguments.

Proponents of the legislation argued that it is intended to protect individuals’ personal property and 2nd Amendment rights.

Some indicated that constituents said they felt vulnerable having to commute to and from work without having a firearm in their vehicles.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

Statehouse Reporter