West Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.PO Box 11371 • Charleston, WV 25339-1371
2008 WVCDL Legislative Candidate Survey
Candidates' responses to the WVCDL legislative candidate survey are available through the following links:
Each candidate for the Legislature was asked the following
questions. Background information on each issue precedes each question.
The numbering of the questions corresponds with the response tables
Many states have “reciprocity” arrangements whereby they recognize each other’s concealed handgun licenses. Increasingly, states are unilaterally recognizing all other states’ concealed handgun licenses or adding a simple provision to their law that they will recognize the licenses of any state that recognizes their licenses. These states have not experienced any problems due to their unilateral recognition of other states’ permits. However, current West Virginia law provides very restrictive conditions for the establishment of reciprocity with other states that disqualify most states from establishing reciprocity with us. If West Virginia recognizes more states’ licenses, more states will recognize West Virginia’s licenses, resulting in West Virginia concealed handgun licensees being able to legally carry in more states.
During the 2008 regular legislative
session, two bills, SB
228 and HB
4683, both introduced at WVCDL’s request, would have extended
recognition to all other states’ concealed handgun licenses, as long as
the individual licensee is at least 21 years old, not prohibited by
state or federal law from possessing a firearm, and (with limited
exceptions for new residents on a temporary basis and members of the
military stationed in other states) not a West Virginia resident.
In West Virginia, all records concerning individuals who have concealed handgun licenses, including the names and home addresses of licensees, are public records under the Freedom of Information Act and are open to unfettered public access. Nearly 83,000 West Virginians currently have concealed handgun licenses. Many newspapers regularly print lists of individuals who are issued licenses, including former police and corrections officers, victims of domestic violence, and other ordinary citizens who merely want to be able to defend themselves from crime.
In 2007, a tremendous public uproar ensued after the Roanoke Times published on the Internet a searchable database of all concealed handgun permits issued in Virginia, which showed permittees’ full home street addresses to anyone who had Internet access. Although the Roanoke Times quickly removed this database, many retired police officers reported being visited at their homes by people they had arrested in the past and victims of domestic violence who were hiding from their abusive former spouses or partners reported similar home visits. Furthermore, allowing public access to license lists provides potential burglars veritable shopping lists of homes where they are most likely to find not just one but several guns to steal; theft is a leading source of guns for criminals who cannot legally possess firearms.
At least 27 of the 36 states that have nondiscretionary, “shall-issue” concealed weapon licensing laws have closed public access to records containing the names, addresses, or other personally-identifying information of any applicant or licensee; access to these records is limited to law-enforcement agencies, an individual licensee who wishes to inspect his or her own license record, and when required by a court order. In 2007, the House of Delegates passed a bill to close public access to these records in West Virginia but the bill failed to pass the Senate; in 2008, the same bill passed the House Judiciary Committee with only one dissenting vote but died after being removed from the House Special Calendar by the House leadership.
2. Will you vote FOR legislation closing public access to concealed handgun license records and limiting access to these records to law-enforcement agencies, an individual licensee with regard to his or her own record, and when required by a court order?
Under current West Virginia law, an
applicant for a concealed handgun license must pay a total of $90 in
fees for either a new license or to renew an existing, expiring
license. Licenses must be renewed once every 5 years. Four of our
surrounding states have similar, nondiscretionary “shall-issue”
licensing laws and all four also issue licenses for 5-year terms
(Maryland is the only surrounding state that does not have a
shall-issue law). The fees charged per license in our surrounding
states are $60 in Kentucky, $55 in Ohio, $50 maximum in Virginia (each
county and city may charge less and many do), and only $25 in
Pennsylvania. In 2008, at WVCDL’s request, a bill (SB
introduced to reduce West Virginia’s license fee from $90 to $50.
3. Will you vote FOR legislation to reduce concealed handgun license fees to conform to the prevailing fees of our surrounding states?
Under current West Virginia law,
all concealed handgun licenses are valid for a period of 5 years from
the date of issue. WVCDL supports changing the expiration and
renewal cycle in two ways. The first change would change the
renewal cycle to mirror that of driver’s licenses: every birthday
evenly divisible by 5 with provisions for calculating the appropriate
expiration date and prorating licensing fees for individuals who are
transitioned into the system. This change will allow sheriffs
more even caseloads of renewal applications. For licensees, this change
will make the time to renew easy to remember and encourage early
renewals as licensees would no longer face the conundrum of either
paying duplicate fees for the period of time between an early renewal
date and the date on which the old license expired or having a
temporarily lapsed license if the renewal process extends beyond the
expiration date of the old license. The second proposed change would
provide for an automatic extension of licenses issued to members of the
military who are on deployment. Many states are now adopting
provisions in their expiration and renewal laws for concealed handgun
licenses that mirror existing provisions for motor vehicle driver’s
licenses by ensuring that service members do not come home t an expired
license and the inconvenience of applying as a first-time applicant
because their old license expired while the licensee was overseas.
4. Will you vote FOR legislation replacing the 5-year renewal cycle of concealed handgun licenses with an every fifth birthday renewal cycle?
4A. Will you vote FOR legislation allowing automatic extensions of concealed handgun licenses issued to members of the military on deployment?
Current West Virginia law is silent
on whether an applicant for a concealed handgun license is required to
submit an application for a license in person at the sheriff’s office
at the county courthouse. The law requires all applications to be
notarized (notary publics are required by law to either personally know
the affiant or verify an affiant’s identity through photo
identification). Current law also requires all applicants to
prove their identity and residency by providing a copy of either a West
Virginia driver’s license or nondriver ID card issued by the DMV. All
background checks are conducted using an applicant’s name, date of
birth, and other identifying information contained in the application;
West Virginia does not fingerprint applicants. Current law is also
silent on the manner in which a license is to be delivered to a
licensee upon being issued. In many cases, this results in applicants,
both initial and renewal, having to make two trips to the courthouse.
For many West Virginians, even one trip involves a significant amount
of time and money, especially with current gas prices.
5. Will you vote FOR legislation clarifying that applications for concealed handgun licenses must be accepted in person or by mail?
5A. Will you vote FOR legislation requiring sheriffs to deliver granted licenses by mail unless an applicant requests otherwise in writing in the application?
Current West Virginia law provides that upon submission of an application for a concealed handgun license, a sheriff “shall conduct an investigation which shall verify that the information [submitted by the applicant is] true and correct.” The law does not further specify how this is to be accomplished. In general, sheriffs check the State Police criminal records database and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Interstate Identification Index to determine whether the applicant may be disqualified from licensure under the statutory licensing criteria.
WVCDL supports inserting a
provision requiring sheriffs to examine the III, the National Crime
Information Center (NCIC) database, and the National Instant Criminal
Background Check System (NICS). This change would not burden
sheriffs or applicants. However, it would benefit licensees by
qualifying West Virginia for reciprocity with several states that have
refused to establish reciprocity with us because of their concerns
about the vagueness of our background check requirements. It
would also give licensees another major benefit by qualifying all
licenses issued on or after the effective date of this change as
fulfilling the background check requirements under federal law to
purchase a gun from a licensed dealer without a redundant NICS check at
the time of the transaction. Many individuals repeatedly suffer from
needless delays caused by mistakes of identity and inaccurate records.
Presently, 18 states (including Kentucky) have qualified for this
exemption for their licensees (for a complete list of states that issue
NICS exempt licenses, see http://www.atf.gov/firearms/bradylaw/permit_chart.htm).
6. Will you vote FOR legislation clarifying the procedures for criminal background checks for concealed handgun licenses to allow West Virginia the expanded reciprocity and NICS exemption for which many other states now qualify?
Current West Virginia law requires an applicant for a concealed handgun license to show proof of training and specifies how this requirement may be fulfilled. The only specific requirement common to all the alternatives through which this requirement may be fulfilled is that the class must involve the handling and firing of a handgun; there are no requirements pertaining to the types of information that must be contained in a course, the number of hours of instruction that a course must provide, or specific standards for proficiency in live fire exercises. Nevertheless, most instructors who teach qualifying classes provide extensive instruction on the care and use of firearms, marksmanship, gun safety, and use of force laws. Any legislation to increase the existing statutory training requirements would prove a logistical nightmare (requiring nearly 83,000 current licensees who became licensees over the nearly 20 years West Virginia has had a shall-issue licensing law to take a new class at a time when individuals in many parts of the state have difficulty finding available courses locally under the existing system) and would be strongly opposed by gun-rights organizations including WVCDL.
Several states, including Virginia and Florida, have similar training requirements to West Virginia but, in addition to the choices allowed in West Virginia, also allow proof of current military service, an honorable discharge, or proof of participation in competitive shooting events to fulfill the training requirement. These sates also provide that proof of having been previously licensed in the state (unless the last license was revoked for cause and not reinstated) fulfills this requirement for a former licensee who wishes to be licensed again. Under current West Virginia law, proof of training does not expire; the challenge for many individuals is keeping their training certificate and constantly renewing their licenses, as a renewal applicant (who has a current, valid license) is not required to show a training certificate but a licensee whose license has expired would be required to show the certificate to obtain a “new” license. These aspects of West Virginia law require members of the military, veterans, participants in competitive shooting events, and individuals who have lost their training certificates and whose licenses have expired to complete redundant classes, adding to the cost of a license for these individuals and reducing available slots in some classes.
7. Will you vote FOR legislation to add to the methods by which the proof of training requirement in West Virginia’s concealed handgun licensing law may be satisfied: (1) proof of current military service or an honorable discharge, (2) proof of participation in competitive shooting, and (3) having been previously licensed in West Virginia unless the last license was revoked for cause and not reinstated?
7A. Will you vote AGAINST any legislation that would require current licensees to take a new training course to renew their licenses?
Current West Virginia law requires a license to conceal a deadly weapon “on or about” one’s person, meaning within easy access or reach. Among those exempted from this requirement are property owners upon their own premises. Current law also requires no license to carry a weapon in an unconcealed manner.
At least 14 states (including
Kentucky) generally extend the same right to carry without a license to
a person in his or her own vehicle as for the person’s home or place of
business. Although a few of these states limit this exception to a
weapon in a glove box or center console, most provide a complete
exemption for car carry. These figures do not include Alaska and
Vermont, which respect the right to carry both openly and concealed, in
a vehicle or on foot, without a license. Additionally, law-enforcement
officers are trained to presume that everyone they encounter may be
armed until proven otherwise.
8. Will you vote FOR legislation to extend the property owner’s premises exemption to West Virginia’s concealed weapon licensing law to private vehicles?
West Virginia’s hunting laws contain several confusing and contradictory regulations on the carrying of firearms in vehicles and in wooded areas during the closed season (see West Virginia Code § 20-2-5(3), (8), (9), and (19)). Although these regulations are designed primarily to combat poaching, they have been abused and applied against individuals who were merely carrying a handgun for self-defense purposes. For nearly 20 years, the weapons laws contained in West Virginia’s criminal code have recognized an adult individual’s right to open carry without a license and provided a nondiscretionary, “shall-issue” system of issuing licenses for concealed carry.
In 2002, the Legislature took a
partial step toward protecting law-abiding gun owners from these abused
by enacting West Virginia Code § 20-2-6a, which protects a person
who is otherwise legally carrying a concealed handgun from a
misapplication of these regulations. However, the law still leaves
tremendous uncertainty over how these regulations apply to open carry,
which is necessary for many visitors to West Virginia who do not reside
in states that have concealed handgun license reciprocity with us
because of our restrictive reciprocity law (see Question 1 above). In
319 was introduced at WVCDL’s request to revise the firearms
regulations contained in the hunting laws to only apply to long guns.
9. Will you vote FOR legislation to revise the firearms regulations contained in West Virginia’s hunting laws to clarify that these regulations do not apply to handguns?
Current West Virginia law prohibits
anyone other than a law-enforcement officer or a person authorized by
the chief judge of the particular court to possess any deadly weapon
“on any premises which houses a court of law.”
Several states, including Pennsylvania, require courthouses to provide on-site weapon storage by providing secure, self-service lockers in which individuals entering a courthouse may store & lock their gun while inside the courthouse (with a requirement that alternative storage be provided by courthouse security personnel in case of an overflow or an absence of the required lockers) and then retrieve it when leaving. These laws protect individuals from the potential danger the may face from assailants who would otherwise be able to attack someone going between his or her car and a courthouse because that person would be unarmed. These laws also prevent gun thefts by reducing the likelihood a criminal would be able to get a gun by burglarizing vehicles parked near courthouses—especially since current law allows public access to lists of individuals who have concealed handgun licenses.
10. Will you vote FOR a bill to require all West Virginia courthouses to install self-service weapon storage lockers at all courthouse public entrances; require alternative secure, on-site weapon storage in cases of overflow or an absence of the required lockers; and provide a limited exception to the courthouse carry ban to facilitate these storage arrangements?
Current West Virginia law generally
preempts county and municipal gun control ordinances. However, these
laws have a grandfather clause that allows municipal ordinances adopted
prior to the enactment of the preemption law to remain in effect. The
City of Charleston has grandfathered ordinances (1) rationing handgun
purchase to one gun per month and (2) prohibiting anyone, including a
person with a concealed handgun license who has completed the required
training and background checks required for that license, from carrying
a weapon in any city building or park.
11. Will you vote FOR legislation repealing the grandfather clause in West Virginia’s local gun control preemption law?
All but two states have laws preempting firearm regulations. These laws vary in scope by state. West Virginia’s preemption law applies only to county and municipal ordinances. Many states have more comprehensive preemption laws that extend to administrative actions and rules of state and local agencies.
Current West Virginia law prohibits weapons in schools, courthouses, the State Capitol Complex, jails, prisons, juvenile facilities, and juvenile detection centers. West Virginia law does not prohibit state or local government agencies from imposing many restrictions on our right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes, including designating public buildings as “gun-free zones” where it would otherwise be legal for a person to carry a gun for personal protection. West Virginia law also does not prohibit the carrying or possession of firearms on college and university property. However, many colleges and universities have established policies prohibiting students and staff from possessing or carrying firearms on campus. Students risk expulsion and staff risk being fired if they violate these policies.
Unfortunately, these “gun-free zone” policies only disarm the law-abiding who are then unable to provide for their own defense, as seen in recent school massacres where such gun control was in effect.
As the tragedy at Virginia Tech proved, the “I’m unarmed, please don’t hurt me” approach is not an effective means of self defense, especially when faced with a violent criminal determined to kill. Unfortunately, the police can’t be everywhere all the time and usually arrive after the crime to take a report from any survivors. “Gun-free zones” amount to little more than criminal protection zones that guarantee criminals protection from the possibility of confrontation by an armed, law-abiding citizen who could defend himself or herself, and instill a false sense of security in unsuspecting members of the public.
At WVCDL’s request, bills were
introduced in 2007 (SB
732) to eliminate these
criminal protection zones on public property. These bills would not
have affected the rights of private property owners, including private
colleges—only public agencies owned & controlled by, and
accountable to, the people of West Virginia. These bills were defeated,
ensuring that criminals and murderers will have the upper hand.
12. Will you vote FOR legislation that would prevent state colleges and universities from penalizing students with concealed handgun licenses from carrying on campus and prohibit state and local agencies from enacting any additional restrictions on carrying on public property where the Legislature has chosen to not prohibit weapons?
Recently, anti-gun New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg employed an army of private detectives (who were not law-enforcement officers) to visit gun dealers throughout the east coast and attempt to perform “straw” firearm purchases, in which that private detective, being unable under federal law to purchase a firearm from that dealer because of federal laws restricting interstate gun purchases, employed another person to complete a gun purchase. Most of these private detectives also pretended to be unable to legally possess firearms for other reasons, including criminal convictions these private detectives pretended to have. These “straw” purchases are illegal and punishable as a felony under federal law. However, federal officials refused to prosecute anyone for this scheme.
Most of the targeted dealers complied with strict federal laws requiring extensive documentation of all firearm transfers, including the verification of the identity, state of residence, and background of the prospective purchaser. Nevertheless, New York City proceeded to sue dozens of gun dealers from Pennsylvania to Georgia, driving many of them out of business. In settlements with many of these dealers, New York City got access to all records maintained by the dealers that entered into settlements, allowing New York politicians to know every gun purchase ever made from the dealers who settled. Although no West Virginia gun dealers have apparently been targeted yet by this scheme, West Virginia is close enough to New York City for our gun dealers to be targeted by a similar scheme in the future.
In 2006, Virginia passed a law
duplicating federal law on “straw” firearm purchases to give local
prosecutors in Virginia the ability to criminally prosecute straw
purchasers at the state level to protect law-abiding Virginia gun
dealers from future straw purchase entrapment schemes; this legislation
specifically excluded legitimate sting operations conducted by law-enforcement agencies acting
within their official jurisdiction. A bill to duplicate this Virginia
law was introduced at WVCDL’s request in 2007 as SB
648 and 2008 as SB
252. Similar legislation is pending in other states.
13. Will you vote FOR legislation to enact a state “straw” purchases law in West Virginia?
In 2002, as part of a broader bill providing for enhanced security measures at the State Capitol, the Legislature made it a crime for any person other than a law-enforcement officer to bring a deadly weapon onto State Capitol property. See W.Va. Code § 61-6-19(b). This statute is poorly-written and could even be interpreted to apply to a person who leaves his or her gun locked in a vehicle parked in one of the many public parking lots that surround the State Capitol.
Laws and policies on weapons at
state capitols vary widely by state. For example, Pennsylvania
prohibits weapons inside its State Capitol but provides storage lockers
at one public entrance to allow anyone carrying a gun to securely store
it while inside the building and be able to legally carry it while
walking to and from their vehicle. Virginia, on the other hand, allows
anyone with a concealed handgun permit to carry anywhere inside the
Virginia State Capitol, despite mandatory metal detector screenings at
the public entrance and substantial on-site security measures; visitors
to the Virginia State Capitol who have a concealed handgun permit
display it at the security station and are waved through the metal
detector. The West Virginia State Capitol has neither on-site weapon
storage nor mandatory metal detector screenings or other security
measures to adequately protect legislators, staff, other public
officials, or visitors from criminals who might exploit the State
Capitol’s minimal security and well-known status as a gun-free criminal
protection zone. At WVCDL’s request, bills were introduced in 2007 (SB
649) and 2008 (SB
136) to repeal the State Capitol weapons ban.
14. Will you vote FOR legislation to repeal the State Capitol weapons ban and restore the right of public officials, staff, and visitors to the State Capitol to the means of self-defense?
West Virginia law generally bans the carrying of guns in both public and private K-12 schools, except for the police. This ban infringes the rights of law-abiding West Virginians and makes it almost certain that children and school personnel would remain helpless in the face of a Columbine type of attack by a deranged student or stranger who will ignore the law against bringing a gun in the school. This ban also creates the unnecessary danger and inconvenience of having to frequently unload and then reload a gun before and after driving a vehicle onto school property, as the existing law allows unloaded firearms to be kept in vehicles driven or parked on school property. Finally, this ban creates a confusing situation regarding the legality of carrying at churches that operate religious schools because of the uncertainty over what parts of a combined church and school are considered a school where weapons are banned and what parts are not a school and thus are not subject to the ban; likewise, the treatment of a parking lot and exterior grounds of a combined church/school is uncertain. Any violation of this statute is punishable as a felony, which would result in a person becoming prohibited by both federal and state law from possessing a firearm for life.
Even the draconian federal Gun Free
School Zone Act specifically exempts concealed handgun permit holders
from its restrictions and allows permit holders to carry their firearms
into classrooms. Moreover, the states of Alabama, California, Oregon,
Rhode Island, and Utah specifically and completely exempt individuals
with concealed weapon permits from their respective gun-free schools
laws. Delaware law provides for an enhancement of penalties for weapons
offenses occurring on school property but does not prohibit individuals
with concealed weapon permits from carrying in schools. New Hampshire
has no state law providing criminal penalties for possessing weapons on
school property (like every other state, however, New Hampshire law
provides for the expulsion of a student who brings a gun to school
equally enforces on and off school property other laws such as the
prohibition on carrying a concealed weapon without a license). In these
7 states, individuals who hold concealed weapon permits may legally
carry anywhere on school property. Many other states have less
generous, but favorable provisions for individuals licensed to carry
concealed weapons that either reduce the penalty for a violation from a
felony to a misdemeanor and/or allow the possession, carrying, and
storage of a loaded firearm in a vehicle driven or parked on school
15. Will you vote FOR a bill to more closely conform school gun policy with federal standards and existing state laws in more than half a dozen other states by allowing concealed handgun licensees to carry a gun while on school grounds?
Annually, a bill is introduced in
the Legislature to ration firearms by prohibiting a person from
purchasing more than one handgun in any 30-day period. Similar laws
exist in only three other states. These laws have proven totally
ineffective at reducing crime or trafficking in guns to individuals who
are prohibited by law from possessing firearms and have to resort to
illegal means of acquiring guns. Existing federal law requires licensed
dealers who sell more than one handgun to any person in any 5-day
period to file a multiple handgun transaction report with federal,
state, and local law-enforcement agencies. “One-gun-per-month” and
similar gun rationing laws also prevent crime victims from quickly
replacing stolen guns and prevent collectors of firearms from acquiring
certain sets of guns (such as a matched set of antique dueling pistols
or some other gun collection that has particular value as a complete
set). The first state to adopt a one-handgun-per-month gun rationing
law has since repealed it.
16. Will you vote AGAINST any bill to limit the number of firearms any person can own or acquire at any one time or impose any waiting period between multiple firearm acquisitions?
Most firearms experts recognize
that mechanical devices, such as trigger locks, create an extremely
dangerous condition, whereby a gun can be fired accidentally.
These dangerous “lock up your safety” devices may render a handgun
ineffective when most needed and leave an individual or family
defenseless and vulnerable to attack. Additionally, trigger locks
create a false sense of security similar to that created when child
safety caps were mandated which resulted in a significant increase in
child poisonings when parents came to rely on the “safety” caps rather
than education to protect their children.
17. Will you vote AGAINST government mandated use of trigger locks or other such hazardous “safety” devices which have the effect of making it difficult, if not impossible, to have a gun readily available to defend your home and family?
Most experts agree that “ballistic
fingerprinting” is not a valid fingerprinting of firearms but rather
just a snapshot in time because the markings on the shell and bullets
change over time with use, parts replacement, and/or intentional
modifications. Two studies done for the California Department of
Justice concluded that ballistic fingerprinting is not a viable
methodology. Most recently, a Maryland State Police report on
Maryland’s ballistic fingerprinting program called it expensive and
ineffective. In addition, the head of the Maryland State Police
testified before a Maryland House of Delegates committee that
Maryland’s mandate to collect ballistics information hasn't helped
solve any crimes.
18. Will you vote AGAINST any legislation designed to impose these useless “feel good” ballistic fingerprinting schemes in West Virginia?
Gun control advocates have made a concerted effort to demonize gun shows as a place where criminals have ready access to firearms. However, according to a 2001 U.S. Department of Justice report, only 0.7% of criminals got their guns from gun shows.
Existing federal laws require all persons engaged in the business of dealing firearms to be licensed and closely monitored by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The ATF maintains strict control over all federally-licensed firearm dealers are required to ensure that all their firearm transfers are approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System whether the transfer is consummated at a gun show or at the dealer’s place of business.
The terms “gun show loophole” and “unlicensed gun dealer” have been fabricated to mislead the public into believing that gun shows permit gun transfers that would be forbidden anywhere else. There is nothing that can be done legally at a gun show that cannot also be done legally outside of a gun show.
Closing the imaginary “gun show loophole” is just the first step in a campaign to criminalize all non-dealer private gun transfers.
19. Will you vote AGAINST any legislation designed to ban non-dealer private gun transfers (whether at gun shows or outside of gun shows)?
Semi-automatic firearms (which discharge only one shot with each pull of the trigger) have been owned and used by law-abiding citizens for over a century. Fully-automatic firearms (which discharge more than one shot with each pull of the trigger), short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, silencers, and certain “destructive devices” are federally registered, taxed, and much more closely regulated than other types or classes of firearms. Pistol and rifle ammunition magazines are plastic or metal boxes containing a spring that feed ammunition cartridges into a semi-automatic firearm.
Gun control advocates have
attempted to ban various classes of firearms based on their cosmetic
appearance, prohibit various classes of firearms based on the caliber
of bullet the gun is capable of firing, ban ammunition magazines
capable of holding more than a certain number of ammunition cartridges
(including many of the most common pistol magazines currently in
widespread use), limit the types of metals that may be used in
ammunition (such as banning lead in ammunition), which would
dramatically increase expenses of law-enforcement agencies, competitive
target shooters, hunters, and every other gun owner.
20. Will you OPPOSE ANY and ALL gun bans?