On Friday, the Senate Finance Committee passed Senate Bill 458, a bill authorizing final promulgation of the Lottery Commission’s rules for racetrack table games. WVCDL strongly opposes this bill and its House counterpart, HB 4257, in their current form, because the rules would prohibit anyone other than on-duty law-enforcement officers, armored car guards, and designated Lottery Commission employees from possessing weapons in the casino areas of the tracks that have table games. In the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, offered an amendment to remove the weapons ban, but this amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

Now, SB 458 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where we again have an opportunity to try to amend this bill before it moves to the Senate floor. We must not miss this opportunity to fix a bad bill now!

I have e-mailed every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing my opposition to the proposed casino weapons ban and the exact changes that need to be made to SB 458 to make it acceptable to us. Now, you need to do the same.

Please go to West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee and scroll to the bottom of the page. There, you will find a link through which you can send one e-mail to all 17 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although it is up to you to write a personal message, I offer my message as an example of the points you should address: Senators:

Senate Bill 458, authorizing Lottery Commission rules for racetrack table games, passed the Finance Committee on Friday and is now in the Judiciary Committee. In its present form, SB 458 threatens the rights of law-abiding gun owners and must be amended before passing your committee.

Proposed Code of State Rules § 179-8-3.11.a would prohibit anyone other than a law-enforcement officer, armored car guard, or designated Lottery Commission employee from possessing weapons in the casino area of a track. These rules would make West Virginia’s four racetrack casinos and their patrons sitting ducks for robbers and other criminals attracted to the large sums of money present at the casinos. The proposed rules are available online at http://www.wvsos.com/adlaw/modified/179-08mod.pdf and the objectionable provisions may be found on pages 16 and 17 of the PDF file.

I understand the controversial nature of gambling in West Virginia as well as anyone else. Regardless of what you think about racetrack table games, the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and to defend ourselves from the criminal element should be respected and protected by the Legislature.

Sections 2.65 (which defines weapon for the purposes of the rule) and 3.11.a of the proposed rule be stricken. It is vital that the Legislature intervene by passing a table games rules bill that bars promulgation of the casino weapons ban proposed by the Lottery Commission.

Passage of this proposed amendment merely places the tracks in the same position as every other private business entity in this state, with the right to determine their own policies concerning whether to permit weapons on their premises. If the tracks want to ban weapons on their premises, that is already their legal right and will remain their right if our proposed amendment to SB 458 passes. However, the Legislature should not turn the tracks into criminal protection zones where prospective victims will be denied the means of legal self-defense by law. Nevada does not, by law, ban weapons in their casinos and neither should West Virginia. As with any other private business, Nevada leaves the decision on weapons policies to the individual casinos, as would West Virginia if these two portions of the proposed rules are stricken.

Nearly 83,000 West Virginians who have concealed handgun licenses and the estimated 2 million licensees of the states with which we have reciprocity will be denied their right to protect themselves, their families, and their friends at West Virginia’s destination gaming resorts. If SB 458 passes without this proposed amendment, it will be possible for sophisticated criminals to prey on visitors to our state’s casinos not only at the casino but possibly while these visitors are traveling to the casinos with, presumptively, large amounts of cash on hand.

I urge you to pass SB 458 with an amendment to strike sections 2.65 and 3.11.a of the proposed rules to allow the individual tracks to decide their own weapons policies and protect law-abiding citizens from another unnecessary gun law that will disarm the law-abiding while offering no protection from criminals who see gun laws not as an impediment but rather assurance they can prey on defenseless victims.

You may contact me via e-mail at the address above or by phone at 304-212-4618 or 304-687-5492.

In addition to e-mailing all the members of the Judiciary Committee, I encourage you to call the office of any of your senators who are on the Judiciary Committee and let them know that you, as their constituent, want them to amend SB 458 to delete the casino weapons ban. All legislators take particular note of calls and e-mails from their constituents, so your e-mails and phone calls are important.

To find the members of the Legislature who represent you, use our Find & Contact Your Legislator tool at the bottom of the right column of our Web site. With the exception of Kanawha County, every person is represented by two senators; every district has one senator on the Judiciary Committee. Kanawha County residents have four senators, two of whom (Foster & Wells) are on the Judiciary Committee.

Jim Mullins, President
West Virginia Citizens Defense League
[email protected]

www.wvcdl.org