A federal judge allowed a lawsuit challenging the statute that prohibited businesses from banning firearms from parking lots to proceed.
U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver rejected a request by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV). The group sought an injunction against House Bill 4187, titled the Business Liability Protection Act.
The law went into effect 90 days after it was passed on March 10, 2018. It stipulated that property owners could not prohibit gun owners from having firearms in their vehicles parked within their parking lots. The bill also prohibited the termination of employees for owning guns.
The Attorney General could also seek injunctions and civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation from errant businesses. Twenty other states have similar laws but Everytown Law representing the coalition argues that West Virginia’s version was more overreaching.
The Bloomberg-owned law firm claimed that the statute violated the property rights of its over a dozen affiliates across West Virginia and put their safety at risk.
Additionally, Everytown claimed that the law violated its clients’ right to free speech and due process as stipulated in the First and Fourteenth Amendments respectively.
“Under the law in question, private property owners can’t choose to keep guns off their property, no matter what their reasons are,” Everytown Law managing director Eric Tirschwell said. “It’s truly extreme, and it directly affects our clients’ ability to protect their staff, residents, and visitors.”
State AG Morrisey argued that the law was never used against the plaintiffs, thus they had no cause of action. Additionally, his office stated that it had no intention of enforcing the law unless it received a complaint.
However, the judge disagreed with the argument and ruled that the coalition had reason to file the lawsuit. Judge Copenhaver said the litigants had a “legitimate fear” that the law could be applied against them.
“There is nothing to suggest that the defendant will not enforce the statute if a member shelter adheres to its existing policy and a citizen files a complaint. Thus, the [Coalition Against Domestic Violence] has alleged an injury in fact,” Judge Copenhaver wrote.
He added that although the law hasn’t been applied “the chilling effect, in this case, is objectively reasonable for members who have changed policies pertaining to the presence of firearms in parking lots after the amendments were enacted.”
West Virginia is a gun-friendly state but that does not prevent gun control groups from trying to undermine the rights of firearm owners.
However, anti-gunners should know that rights and responsibilities are intertwined. Since the businesses wish to take charge of their visitors’ and tenants’ security, they should be responsible for any gun-related injuries sustained within their property.
Some legislators are already working on this issue with Del. Brandon Steele (R - Raleigh, 29) introducing House Bill 4057, which would hold gun-free zones accountable for the security of their visitors.
“If you’ve taken away that person’s ability to protect themselves, then it’s incumbent on you to protect them,” Steele said in 2019.
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