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Gun permit hearing draws large crowd to Capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A public hearing on legislation that would do away with permits for concealed carry of firearms drew a large crowd of law enforcement officials and groups supporting gun rights.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to consider Senate Bill 347 sometime this weekend, but heard from constituents Thursday why they should approve or reject the bill. Representatives from law enforcement agencies as well as the West Virginia Citizens Defense League and National Rifle Association offered their thoughts on the bill that would remove the concealed carry permit requirement.

“There is one substantive change to the law in the bill,” Keith Morgan, president of the Citizens Defense League, said. “What that is, is the removal of a $100 fee to carry a firearm. There’s no change in who can carry a firearm. There’s no change in who is prohibited.”

Supporters of the bill argue the U.S. Constitution supports the right to bear arms, and they say they shouldn’t have to pay fees for a license to do so.

“It is wrong for the Legislature of West Virginia to take our rights and then allow the sheriffs to sell them back to us,” Morgan told lawmakers. “There is nothing fair, there is nothing right about that. You have the opportunity to fix this when it comes to the committee for a vote.”

However, some supporters of the bill argue there are limits on constitutional rights. Although Americans have the right of free speech, you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, said Frank Hartman with the West Virginia Association of Counties.

“Our constitutional rights have some restrictions,” Hartman told the committee. “That’s all we’re asking of the Legislature is to have a reasonable point of view…

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