Legislators discuss private gun ownership

PARKERSBURG – As the debate over gun rights continues, the issue has hit close to home for state lawmakers in West Virginia.

In recent media reports, several state legislators have concealed weapons permits and many have said they have hunting rifles and other firearms.

Reports had various lawmakers saying they had a concealed weapon for protection from threats they have received in their duties as legislators and through their regular jobs.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has come under criticism from the National Rifle Association for pushing for more detailed background checks. He has appeared in television commercials to counter those claims, saying he still believes in protecting people’s Second Amendment rights, and what he has proposed is a responsible way to address some of the problems with current gun laws.

During the past legislative session, state lawmakers with the the House Roads and Transportation Committee considered a bill to allow lawmakers to leave their guns in their cars parked on the Capitol grounds.

State Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said they are not allowed to have a gun on the Capitol campus in Charleston, even though senators park in a gated area with a guardhouse. Nohe believes that should be given some consideration.

Nohe was a detective with the Wood County Sheriff’s Department in the 1970s and has had a concealed carry permit for around 35 years.

“When I got mine you had to have a court hearing every year to renew it,” he said.

In the 1980s that changed to once every three years, which ended up being less expensive. As a former law enforcement officer, Nohe said he was into shooting and had an NRA ranking as an expert at one point.

Nohe said threats he has gotten usually refer back to his time with the sheriff’s department and arrests he had made at the time.

During this past legislative session, gun rights and gun issues were discussed a lot in the Legislature. Several bills gave qualified members of state agencies a free gun permit.

“This was the biggest year for gun legislation in the history of West Virginia,” Nohe said.

Delegate Dan Poling, D-Wood, said he does not mind telling people he has had a concealed carry permit. He said he has to get his renewed. He also has hunting rifles, but has been too busy recently to hunt.

“I have always supported people’s Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Many people are hesitant to tell people whether or not they have guns in their homes or permits to carry concealed weapons as they are afraid it will make them targets for crime, such as someone trying to steal their guns or someone targeting them because they don’t have a weapon to defend themselves.

“That is a lot of what I hear,” Poling said.

Many West Virginians are more accustomed to having firearms around in the home because it has been a part of their lives for years.

“In this area a lot of people grew up with hunting rifles,” Poling said.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said he doesn’t have a concealed weapon permit. He has shotguns and deer rifles, things he inherited from family and items he has bought over the years.

“I have sporting guns I use for hunting,” he said. “I enjoy deer season.”

Anderson admits he does not do as much hunting as he once did and does not go squirrel hunting anymore.

In Charleston, the type of guns people have is not mentioned often in conversations he has with other lawmakers.

“It is not a topic that comes up,” Anderson said.