CHARLESTON - A musket-toting West Virginia high school mascot soon may be able to attend away games worry-free.
The House of Delegates voted 96-1 Friday to exempt the Parkersburg South High School Patriot from the firearms ban on school property.
The bill passed the Senate on third reading by a vote of 33-0-1. It heads to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 421, was sponsored by David Nohe, R-Wood; Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam.
In the House, Delegates John Ellem , R-Wood; Dan Poling, D-Wood; Tom Azinger, R-Wood, and Bill Anderson, R-Wood, sponsored the measure to exempt the musket.
State law already allows for West Virginia University's Mountaineer mascot to carry and fire a muzzle-loader. Parkersburg South officials have sought the same for their school's mascot for several years.
State code prohibits weapons on school grounds, except by 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 Patriots' musket as an exception.
Parkersburg South mascots have fired the gun at home games since 1967. School officials say that only the mascot handles the musket, after being properly trained to load and fire it.
Poling said the House of Delegates representatives from the area introduced the same bill as the one approved by the Senate.
"We thought if we had it on both sides and one side got busy, the other could get it out," he said. "It was a planned attack to make sure we got it out."
Delegate Danny Wells voted against Friday's bill. The Kanawha County Democrat has criticized efforts to ease gun laws.
Nohe would like to have Parkersburg South officials, including the Patriot - musket in hand - attend Tomblin's signing.