CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia will join a short list of states that let people carry hidden guns without permits or training.
The Republican-led Senate overrode Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto Saturday by a 23-11, following the House’s 64-33 vote Friday. Lawmakers only needed a simple majority for the override, a threshold that makes many policy vetoes symbolic. The law takes effect in late May.
Surrounded by law enforcement officials Thursday, Tomblin vetoed the bill over their safety concerns. He vetoed similar legislation last year.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to just look around this room for a moment, and see that law enforcement are concerned about this bill,” Tomblin said Thursday.
On Saturday, opponents echoed concerns that the Republican leadership was ignoring law enforcement’s worries.
“It’s a slap in the governor’s face, but it’s a slap in the State Police’s face, sheriffs, municipal police officers and the vast majority of our constituents,” said Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.
Proponents contended that the proposal would help people protect themselves through a constitutional right.
“This bill will help protect West Virginians, in addition to keeping West Virginians free, as guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Sen. Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia.
Alaska, Wyoming, Arizona, Vermont, Maine and Kansas similarly don’t require concealed carry permits.
Arkansas has a similar law, but the current and previous attorneys general have disagreed on the interpretation.
It’s legal in West Virginia to carry guns openly - in a holster, for instance - without permits.
The bill would let people conceal guns in public without permits, by wearing a coat for example. People ages 18 through 20 would need a permit and training with live firing.
A $50 tax credit would be available for gun training at a total cost of up to $3 million to the state. Tomblin’s veto message called the credit “ill-advised and unclear.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a group funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, mounted a campaign against the bill, including billboards, radio, digital and print ads and polling that widely favored the group’s position.
The National Rifle Association and the Citizens Defense League of West Virginia pushed for the bill.
The Legislature has overridden two other Tomblin vetoes this year: a right-to-work measure and the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage for public construction jobs.
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