Gun rights supporters are pleased by a bill hoping to change West Virginia’s concealed carry law. The vote was two to one in favor of allowing older gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit. In addition, the new law would limit the current requirement for concealed carry gun permits to teens/young adults. House Bill 4145 specifically provides an exception for young adults ages 18 through 21 years old since the sponsor, 19-year-old West Virginia Republican Delegate Saira Blair, has been frightened by recent death threats and would feel more secure being able to carry a hidden gun.
Blair is the youngest member of West Virginia’s House, yet she was the lead sponsor of the gun rights bill. When giving a speech before the West Virginia Legislature, she explained the main reason she was supporting the gun rights law was because she would feel more safe knowing she could use a gun in self defense.
“I’m the only person standing in this chamber in the 18 to 21 year old age period. I can currently not get a permit to carry, and I’ll tell you right now, I am scared. I’ve received multiple death threats in the past year,” Blair explained, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “I am scared. I’m not going to stop what I do on a daily basis; I’m not going to stop going to the mall, I’m not going to stop going to the movies, and I’m not going to stop going to church because of it, but I would feel safer as a law abiding citizen if I knew that I was able to protect myself.”
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West Virginia’s Saira Blair became the youngest lawmaker in the United States when she was elected at age 18 to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 2014. She was expecting people to publicly disagree with her policy positions, or to comment on her physical appearance as a young woman, but what surprised her was the threats of physical violence.
Based upon a report from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Blair has received at least three threats against her person, which may or may not include the death threats mentioned in the recent speech. Blair says she probably should have taken the threats of violence more seriously, but it never occurred to her to call the police.
“They can pretty much say what they want and there’s not going to be any kind of consequence for what they’ve said,” she said. “I think it would be a lot harder in a different field when you’re just doing your job and public attention isn’t what you signed up for. I still don’t necessarily think that makes it OK, but it’s been a lot easier to deal with.”
The young Republican believes the physical threats were largely due to her age, not her gender, but acknowledges some were targeting her as a woman.
“Sometimes I really wish I was a man in that case,” she said.
When West Virginia’s concealed carry gun bill went up for passage on Monday, politicians attempted to tack on 12 amendments. The House spent hours debating these amendments, but all of them failed. The bill will now go to the Senate for its consideration, but the real question is whether the proposed law will stop short on the desk of Democratic Governor Early Tomblin, who vetoed similar bills in 2015.
On Twitter, the governor made it fairly clear that he will also veto Saira Blair’s bill unless certain adjustments are made.
I will veto any concealed carry bill that does not take into consideration the concerns of law enforcement for the safety of our officers.
— Governor Tomblin (@GovTomblin) February 8, 2016
What do you think about the proposed West Virginia gun rights bill?
[Photo by Cliff Owen/AP Images]