CHARLESTON - Parkersburg South's Patriot is one step closer to an exemption for the right to bear arms.
The West Virginia Senate bill seeking an exemption for the Patriots' musket from the Safe Schools Act made it through a Senate committee and first reading on Friday.
"It looks really good at this point," Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said.
The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 421, is sponsored by Nohe, Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam.
State code prohibits all weapons on school grounds, except law enforcement officers, unloaded weapons being auctioned and the West Virginia University Mountaineer, who carries a rifle as part of his uniform. The proposed bills would add the Patriot's musket as an exception.
Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of Wood County Schools, said in some cities where the teams go ordinances exist that prohibit the firing of a weapon. The proposed exemption for the South mascot would mirror what was done for the Mountaineer mascot.
Local legislators have been seeking an exemption for the Patriot since last year. Last year's effort failed to get out of committee. Nohe said this year's attempt has been met with greater success.
"I have worn them out with this bill," he said. "I am tickled to death to run it."
The bill will be brought up again Monday and Tuesday.
If the bill makes it through all the readings, it's on to the House for consideration.
"Now we'll have to just keep our fingers crossed in the House," Parkersburg South Principal Tom Eschbacher said.
Eschbacher, who said he had an inkling the bill would pass the Senate committee, plans to contact House members.
"We need to make sure they got all the facts," Eschbacher said.
Nohe said it would be a historic passage.
"It would be the first time in history since the Mountaineer got an exemption," he said.
The senator would like to coordinate the bill's third reading with Senate recognition of the Parkersburg South girls basketball team, which recently won the Class AAA state title.
"It would be phenomenal to bring the South team down in conjunction with this," he said. "I would like to see them recognized. It's kind of a big deal."