West Virginia House backs employee guns in locked cars
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN, Associated Press
Employees in West Virginia could bring their loaded guns to work as long as they are locked in their cars, according to legislation approved by the House of Delegates on Tuesday.
Titled the “Business Liability Protection Act,” it says the owner or manager of a property cannot prohibit any customer, employee or invitee from having a legally owned gun in its parking lot provided the weapon is inside a locked vehicle or compartment.
Businesses would be prohibited from even asking whether anyone has a gun locked in their car or truck. Violations would be subject to civil penalties up to $5,000.
Supporters said it would expand Second Amendment rights in West Virginia. The bill passed 85-14. It now goes to the Senate.
“We have many people in this state who decide to carry because they want to protect themselves, and many times that involves carrying to work,” said Delegate Geoff Foster, a Winfield Republican and lead sponsor. “Many of the people in this state have been prevented from carrying to work, essentially being disarmed throughout the course of the day, because they can’t have the gun locked in their vehicle.”
Critics said it would make workplaces more dangerous and West Virginia less attractive to companies that want to control their premises.
“We will be less competitive if we don’t allow those people to provide for a safe workplace and protect the public around them,” said Delegate John Shott, a Bluefield Republican. He said 22 other states have some version of this law, but with some limits on where it applies, such as at chemical factories and oil and gas refineries in Texas.
Shott said the NRA fought for the Texas law but didn’t want similar restrictions in West Virginia.
“I don’t know why they want us to be the poster child of whatever we want you get,” he said.
The National Rifle Association did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, a Morgantown Democrat and attorney, said it’s the wrong time “to dramatically expand access to weapons, including weapons of war.”
About two weeks ago, a gunman killed 17 students and faculty at a Florida school with an AR-15.
The bill has no exception for the West Virginia University sports venues, big retail stores or courthouses.
Delegate S. Marshall Wilson, a Garrardstown Republican and Army infantry officer, said he owns several AR-15s and weapons of war is “a compete malapropism.”
The difference with the military’s old M-16 and current M-4 assault rifles is they can produce fully automatic fire with continuous bursts of bullets to empty the magazine, “although I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ll melt your barrel down.”