Everytown Law represents the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence in a constitutional challenge to West Virginia’s 2018 “guns in parking lots” law, W. Va. Code § 61-7-14(d), which forces businesses to allow guns in their parking areas and threatens them with lawsuits and civil penalties if they fail to comply. The law also forbids businesses from asking if an employee or visitor has a firearm in their vehicle, from requiring employees to keep their guns off company property, or from “taking any action against” someone who has brought a gun into the parking area. Over 20 states have laws that bar, to varying extent, private businesses from prohibiting gun possession in their parking lots, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
The Coalition, suing on behalf of the 14 licensed domestic violence programs that make up its membership, contends that the law infringes numerous rights secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The law’s prohibition on firearms-related inquiry infringes the free speech rights of Coalition members who ask about the presence of weapons in order to better secure their shelters. The law’s other restrictions undercut Coalition members’ efforts to run their programs as safe havens for survivors of domestic violence, violating their free association rights and their fundamental right to security on their own private property. Portions of the law are unconstitutionally vague as well.
Filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, the lawsuit names West Virginia Attorney General Patrick J. Morrissey as the sole defendant. The suit seeks an order declaring the law unconstitutional and an injunction barring the Attorney General from enforcing it. The Coalition is represented by attorneys from Everytown Law, Gupta Wessler PLLC, and Goodwin & Goodwin LLP.
Through its lawyers, the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence filed a brief in early September 2019 opposing the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss the Coalition’s challenge to a 2018 law forcing shelters (and other businesses) to allow guns in their parking lots. In its motion, the Attorney General argued that the Coalition lacks legal standing to pursue the claim, because the state has not yet enforced the law against Coalition members. In opposition, the Coalition asserts shelters nonetheless face a credible threat of prosecution under the law, and that a favorable outcome would serve the shelters’ mission to provide safe haven for victims of abuse.