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Senators joined the House of Delegates in a vote to override Governor Tomblin’s veto of a bill that would allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
The Senate voted 23 to 11 during a Saturday morning floor session. The House had voted on the measure Friday.
Along with removing the current permitting and safety training requirements to carry a concealed weapon over the age of 21, the bill also puts a provisional licensing system in place for 18 to 20-year-olds and includes a $50 tax credit for anyone who goes through the permitting process.
The bill increases penalties for people who unlawfully carry concealed, including felons who are prohibited from carrying, or who use a weapon while committing another crime.
Tomblin vetoed the bill Thursday during a ceremony at the Capitol, surrounded by law enforcement officers from across the state. In his veto message, Tomblin cited public safety concerns. Law enforcement also pointed to the bill’s language that would not just allow people to carry a concealed firearm, but also other weapons like knives and brass knuckles.
A recent public opinion poll conducted by the West Virginia firm Orion Strategies found 71 percent of likely voters in the state believed people should have to get a permit in order to carry a weapon.
“This is not just a slap in the face of the Governor,” Democratic Sen. Corey Palumbo said on the Senate floor Saturday, “this is a slap in the face of the State Police, Sheriffs, municipal police, and the majority of the people of West Virginia.”
Republican Sen. Craig Blair stood to support the override, saying the measure will be a crime deterrent in the state.
“I recognize that there are issues as it relates to public opinion on this, but at the end of the day, it is a constitutional right and we really don’t see much difference between carrying in an open manner without a permit or putting a jacket on over your weapon and then being a felon,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael said of the vote Friday.
Carmichael also said he has heard the concerns of law enforcement, but said he hopes they’ll work with lawmakers to ensure West Virginians can exercise their Constitutional rights.
The bill will take effect in mid-May.