Corrections: Legislation arming officers requires caution

West Virginia legislators seemed to be in agreement last year that a major bill involving jails and prisons ought to include a provision allowing some corrections officers to carry guns while on duty and while traveling to and from work.

But that section somehow got left out of the bill sent to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature.

It is back this year, as a stand-alone bill. Prospects for passage appear good.

If enacted, the measure would allow the state commissioner of corrections to authorize agency employees to carry firearms if they have been trained properly and update certifications every year.

Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen should handle that authority with extreme caution. One serious concern is that a corrections officer carrying a gun among a crowd of prisoners can become a target. More than a few jail and prison guards have been killed with their own firearms.

Obviously, the bill is intended to make corrections personnel and the facilities they oversee safer. And right now, those folks are in an incredibly vulnerable position when they go to work every day.

Managed prudently, arming properly trained and certified personnel could, indeed, make the prisoners and corrections employees safer. Give this one plenty of thought, though. Mistakes could have serious, possibly fatal, consequences.

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