Unfortunately, after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanimous passage of Senate Bill 347 on Monday, the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association has begun spreading misinformation about this permitless carry legislation. NRA would like to clear up a few of these misconceptions.
The Sheriffs’ Association is claiming that permitless carry will allow felons and violent criminals who are currently prohibited from possessing a firearm to carry concealed. However, felons are considered prohibited persons and are already disqualified by federal law from owning or possessing firearms. This bill lends itself only to law-abiding gun owners. Every federal and state prohibitor for the purchase or possession of a firearm still applies to this bill, including prohibitions on the mentally ill, felons, and those addicted to alcohol or drugs. Additionally, in West Virginia, it is already legal for a law-abiding individual to carry a firearm openly, however, under current law, if a firearm becomes covered by a coat or if a woman prefers to carry a firearm for self-protection in her purse, that action could be considered a criminal activity if the individual did not possess a CHL.
They are also claiming that there will be a dramatic loss of revenue for the state if SB 347 is passed. This claim is exaggerated. The current permitting system will still be in place so that those who obtain a permit could still enjoy the reciprocity agreements that West Virginia has with other states across the country, including in neighboring Virginia and Kentucky. Many West Virginians rely on this reciprocity when traveling and hunting out of state, and thus will still pay to obtain a CHL. As provided to the Committee and members of the Senate through NRA testimony, permit issuance in the states that already have permitless carry legislation has only increased, because in many instances, individuals who didn’t want to go through the arduous permitting process before may begin to carry for the first time. The expectation is that more permits will be issued as these individuals realize the necessity and ease of carrying, and may wish to do so while traveling outside of the state. In fact, a 2014 Crime Prevention Research Center report showed that there are now 12 million carry permit holders nationally; an all-time high.
The Association incorrectly asserted that gun ownership has started to decline, however, based on recent federal statistics, including the FBI report on the number of firearm-related background checks conducted, gun ownership is at an all-time high. Nothing in this legislation would decrease gun ownership in West Virginia. In fact, we would contend that the passage of permitless carry would actually increase gun ownership by law-abiding West Virginians.
The Sheriffs’ Association expressed a further public safety concern, arguing that law enforcement would now have to treat everyone as if they are armed. However, conventional law enforcement training already dictates that law enforcement treat everyone as if they are armed, anyway.
While we greatly appreciate the work of law enforcement and have worked hand in hand with them in the past in West Virginia to pass Second Amendment legislation, their statements in opposition to SB 347 are incorrect and an unfair characterization of this bill.
The Second Amendment explicitly states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, however, prohibitive costs, requirements and time constraints to obtain a CHL are an infringement on your right to carry.
Please continue to contact your state Senator in support of this important Right to Carry reform and urge them to listen to the facts.