Extreme Caution

Stand-alone bill could have consequences

West Virginia legislators seemed to be in agreement last year that a major bill involving jails and prisons ought to include a provision allowing some corrections officers to carry guns while on duty and while traveling to and from work.

But, as state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, told our reporter, that section somehow got left out of the bill sent to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature.

It is back this year, as a stand-alone bill. Prospects for passage appear good.

If enacted, the measure would allow the state commissioner of corrections to authorize agency employees to carry firearms if they have been trained properly and update certifications every year.

Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen should handle that authority with extreme caution.

One serious concern is that a corrections officer carrying a gun among a crowd of prisoners can become a target. More than a few jail and prison guards have been killed with their own firearms.

Obviously, the bill is intended to make corrections personnel and the facilities they oversee safer. Managed prudently, it could accomplish just that. Mistakes could have serious, possibly fatal, consequences, however.

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