CHARLESTON — State senators overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that will allow state residents 18 and older to carry concealed weapons without a license or registration. The bill passed out of the Senate on a 32-2 vote. Residents are already able to openly carry weapons.

Three amendments to the bill were all defeated. Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, introduced all three.

The first would have raised the legal age to carry a weapon to 21, the second would have raised the age to carry a .357 Magnum revolver to 21 and the third would have required training with the National Rifle Association to carry weapons. Romano said he believes the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is inviolate; however, he said with rights come responsibilities.

“It doesn’t mean we can exercise all our rights without common sense,” he said. “We require people to register to vote.”

Romano said Republicans had attempted to put in place a bill that would require photo identification to vote.

“Don’t tell me constitutional rights don’t come with responsibility,” he said.

Romano said only four other states have similar laws. Republicans rose to oppose all three amendments. Sen. Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia, said nothing deters lawbreakers from doing something illegal. Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, countered Romano’s training requirement amendment by saying it was a “backdoor tax” on gun owners. Romano voted in favor of the bill, even without his amendments, but said it would have been a better bill with them.

Only Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, and Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, voted against the measure.

The bill is headed to the House of Delegates.

Among the 17 other bills to pass the Senate Friday:

• SB 409, establishing fair and open competition in governmental construction. The bill will prohibits project labor agreements— an arrangement with a labor union to provide labor—from being part of the bid process on public projects. Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, said the bill will make the process for bidding fairer between union and non-union contractors. SB 409 moves to the House of Delegates.

• HB 2457, prohibiting the names or likenesses of a public officials on publicly owned vehicles.

• SB 537, which changes the mandatory school instructional days from 180 days to the equivalent minutes in order to provide flexibility to counties in meeting school board instructional day rules.

As time winds down this legislative session, the Senate has held three floor sessions a day in order to more quickly move bills through the process. The Senate has also scheduled floor sessions for this weekend.

Pamela Pritt is a reporter for The (Beckley) Register-Herald, a sister newspaper of the Times West Virginian.

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