The Patriot from Parkersburg South High School may soon be able to carry his musket to any school in West Virginia.
Senate Bill 421, allowing the Wood County mascot an exemption from the Safe Schools Act, passed the full Legislature April 5. The bill unanimously passed the Senate April 3, and it passed the House of Delegates April 5 with one vote against it, from Delegate Danny Wells, D-Kanawha.
The bill is now awaiting action from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Several lawmakers from the Mid-Ohio Valley worked on the bill after it failed in last year's session.
"There was some misunderstanding about what it did, so with working it a little bit, we got everyone to understand it's a good bill," Delegate Daniel Poling, D-Wood, said after the bill passed.
And Poling said despite the deluge of gun-related bills that have been introduced in the 2013 regular legislative session, he wouldn't categorize this bill as one of them.
"We don't really want to call it a gun bill," he explained. "This is more of a sports bill for school involvement, you know, and the Patriot of Parkersburg South has carried that musket since 1967, since the school began, and nobody thought anything about it until recently with some of the tragedies around the country, someone opened their eyes and said, ‘Wait a minute, there's this guy on the field carrying a rifle,' you know, and that's against the law."
Poling said the Parkersburg South Patriot already had a county exemption for carrying the musket to schools in Wood County, but for out-of-town sporting events, the musket was locked up.
"The only thing that the bill does is give him the same exemption we give to the (West Virginia University) Mountaineer, who everyone knows as our state mascot," Poling said.
And it's up to each county to decide if the Patriot can fire the musket with blank cartridges, as WVU's Mountaineer does. The bill only allows permission for the musket to be carried onto school property.
Poling said the Patriot is the mascot for the entire community.
"They're good people up there, and they have a lot of school pride, and the Patriot is they're symbol," he said. "And that's what school athletics is all about – having pride in your school."