By DANYEL VANREENEN
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Prosecuting attorneys are the only members of law enforcement not carrying weapons, according to Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Harvey.
Harvey said it’s not unusual to receive threats from defendants or their family members, and under the current laws, prosecuting attorneys may be left vulnerable.
Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, have proposed a bill to give prosecuting attorneys peace of mind, however.
The language in SB 230 states the purpose of the bill is to require all law enforcement agencies in West Virginia to certify qualified law-enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms nationwide. The bill would also give prosecuting attorneys and assistant prosecuting attorneys the option to carry firearms for self-defense following training. The bill would also require law enforcement agencies to provide qualified retired law-enforcement officers the opportunity to be certified to carry concealed firearms nationwide.
Berkeley County prosecuting attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti said any prosecuting attorney wishing to take advantage of the privileges provided in the bill would receive training.
Harvey explained that under current law, prosecuting attorneys have the right to carry a concealed weapon following the same provisions and laws applicable to ordinary citizens. Harvey said the concealed carry laws don’t apply to other states like Maryland and Virginia, however.
“I’m vulnerable if I go to Hagerstown for dinner with my family,” Harvey said. “The proposed bill would allow prosecuting attorneys to go to other states and still protect ourselves.”
According to Blair, the bill would also grant prosecutors and assistant prosecutors arrest powers for violations of state and federal laws and violations of West Virginia rules of criminal procedure committed in their presence, and within the confines of the courthouse.
“There shall be in place in the office of the prosecuting attorney a requirement that the prosecuting attorney and assistant prosecuting attorneys must regularly qualify in the use of a firearm with standards therefore which are equal to or exceed those required of sheriff’s deputies in the county in which the prosecuting attorney was elected or appointed,” the proposed bill states.
Harvey and Delligatti said it’s not unusual for prosecuting attorneys to receive threats. All threats are taken seriously and investigated, but Harvey is also concerned about the individuals who might not make threats, but may act violently if they see an opportunity in a public place.
“This bill would give me some peace of mind,” Harvey said. “It would put prosecuting attorneys on the same footing as other law enforcement officers.”
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