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Thursday in the House, among the multitude of bills passed, the Firearms Act of 2015 was also up for a vote. Senate Bill 347 has received an overwhelming amount of controversy among legislators, their constituents, law enforcement, and others, and no less was seen on the House floor.
The biggest change this bill brings to the state’s current gun laws is it would no longer require a law-abiding citizen to acquire a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
“You shouldn’t be taking your guns concealed without a permit into a public area, into a Baskin Robins or into a Kroger for heaven’s sakes,” Democrat Nancy Guthrie of Kanawha County said, “People with guns can be very dangerous, and if we don’t enforce that rule of law, we have no law.”
“This bill is not going to put guns in the hands of the criminals, they already have’em,” noted Republican John Kelly of Wood County, “What this bill is gonna do is make a level playing field for the honest people in the state of West Virginia who will be able to carry concealed and be able to carry concealed legally. The criminal? He doesn’t care.
“Handling guns is not video games. This is reality people,” said Republican Bill Hamilton of Upshur County, “When you do this, and please turn around and look at me. When you squeeze the trigger, you can’t say I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t know you were standing there. It’s gone out of the chamber and down the barrel. Let’s be aware of what we’re voting for.”
“When I applied for my concealed carry permit and went through the training, I really did so, because I was being under that situation, and it was because of my involvement in the political arena, and it was very stressful to me to have to wait and wait and wait,” Republican Cindy Frich of Monongalia County said, “And I got that training as soon as I could, because I knew people that were involved in this, so I didn’t have to wait to receive my training, but I did have to wait on receiving the permit. So, I think that adds a lot of stress in some young lady, or a lady’s life under these circumstances when they have to wait. So I am in support of this bill. I think if you’re, need to defend yourself, you need to defend yourself as soon as possible.”
“I oppose this bill because of law enforcement officers across our state that are gonna be going into situations that are already dangerous,” Democrat Linda Phillips of Wyoming County explained, “and they put their lives on the line anyway for us, and this is just gonna make it just a little bit more dangerous for them. Lastly, I oppose this bill because of domestic violence victims, I know the perp is not supposed to carry, but again this law just makes it easier.”
“We’ve heard a lot of talk about good people and bad people, but this bill only addresses good people,” said Republican Gary Howell of Mineral County, “The bad people are criminals, they break the law. They carry right now, if they’re a convicted felon, and they’re not allowed to have a gun, they carry one anyway. Make no mistake, this law is only dealing with good people, and whether or not good people can carry a gun without a permit.”
After the two hour debate, Senate Bill 347 passed 71 to 29.
After the vote, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin released a statement in opposition to its passage. Manchin said he thinks concealed carry applicants should receive proper firearm training. He called the vote irresponsible.
Friday will be another long day for the members in the House of Delegates. The bills to create public charter schools and to amend the aboveground storage tank laws will be up for a vote on the floor.