West Virginia Republicans Advance Bills Aimed at Protecting Gun Rights

March 24, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021

Four pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the rights of gun owners are advancing in West Virginia’s Republican-controlled state legislature, as Democrats in Washington renew their push for gun control.

West Virginia’s Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday discussed and approved one proposed amendment to the state Constitution, two bills that would relax state laws on gun sales, and one resolution calling on leaders in Washington to not infringe on the Second Amendment.

The Tuesday meeting was mostly focused on the Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would specify in the state Constitution that local governments can’t adopt gun laws or regulations that are more restrictive than state law.

As a joint resolution, the proposal would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the state legislature before it can be approved by the citizens on a referendum vote at a general election.

In addition, the committee passed Senate Bill 458, which would prevent the suspension or limitation of gun sales during a state of emergency declared by the federal or state government. The bill specifically prohibits any limits on the operating hours of stores selling guns or ammunition, unless such restriction is equally applied to all forms of commerce in the affected area.

Also passed was Senate Bill 419, which redefines the term “firearm” to match the definition in federal code. That would allow antique guns, replicas of actual guns, or muzzleloaders to be possessed by those who are otherwise not permitted to possess a firearm.

The committee also passed a resolution, urging President Joe Biden and Congress to “refrain from the enactment of any law or laws that would infringe upon the rights to keep and bear arms.”

In their first major move to push for gun control since President Joe Biden took office, congressional Democrats passed two gun bills in the House this month. One of the bills would establish background check requirements for gun sales between private parties, making it illegal for anyone who is not a licensed dealer to trade guns with another person, with few exceptions. The other would increase the amount of time sellers must wait to receive a completed background check before transferring a gun to an unlicensed buyer from three days to 10 days.

Biden, in his brief remarks following the deadly shooting in Boulder, Colorado, called on the Senate to “immediately pass” the two gun bills.

“The United States Senate—I hope some are listening—should immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close loopholes in the background check system,” he said.