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House passes bill eliminating need for gun permit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After nearly two hours of discussion, the House of Delegates on Thursday voted 71-29 to pass legislation that would allow residents over the age of 21 to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

The final vote on the legislation was mixed, with Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, and Delegates George Ambler, R-Greenbrier; Bob Ashely, R-Roane; Roy Cooper, R-Summers; John Ellington, R-Mercer; David Evans, R-Marshall, Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, Woody Ireland, R-Ritchie, John McCuskey, R-Kanawha, Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, John Shott, R-Mercer, Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; and Steve Westfall, R-Jackson all breaking with the party and voting against the bill.

Known as constitutional carry, Senate Bill 374 establishes the Firearms Act of 2015. The bill would allow state residents over the age of 21 to carry concealed handguns without first obtaining a permit and taking the associated training courses but gun owners could still acquire a permit in order to maintain reciprocity with other states. Currently, open carry without a permit is legal in West Virginia, but once the gun is concealed a license is required, leading some delegates to call the current law a “permission slip” or “jacket tax.” It costs $100 to obtain a concealed carry permit in West Virginia.

The bill has caused a bit of an uproar as it has moved through the Legislature. It passed the Senate Feb. 27 by a vote of 32-2 then was reported to the House, where the Judiciary Committee held a public hearing that drew gun rights activists and law enforcement officers to testify to the bill. Some delegates said they’ve received phone calls or emails from constituents urging their support or rejection of the bill as well. That communication from voters helped shape some delegates’ vote.

“If police officers are not asking for it, if the public is not asking for it, we should not be bowing down to an advocacy group that has intimidated everybody in this chamber for almost the last 60 days, except the few who are their buddies,” said Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha. “We’re not talking about a lot of people. We’re talking about a radical and extreme faction and they are dangerous…

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