Number of WV agency guns unknown

May 2, 2019

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s state government, which for years could not say exactly how many vehicles it owned, has another inventory shortcoming that could be much more serious.

Because 58 state agencies or entities are totally or partially exempt from state purchasing rules — and don’t have to report their inventory to the wvOasis supercomputer system — state agencies own an unknown number of non-inventoried guns.

That presents a “substantial risk of harm to the public safety,” a legislative audit released Tuesday concludes.

“Missing firearms or deficient inventory and physical controls over state-owned firearms result in a substantial risk of harm to the public safety and liability to the state of West Virginia,” the audit states.

Of the 4,903 guns listed in the wvOasis inventory, 3,071 — or 63 percent — belong to purchasing-exempt agencies, primarily State Police and the Division of Corrections. The audit notes that while many agencies that are exempt from reporting inventory do maintain a firearms inventory in wvOasis, there is no legal requirement to do so.

A separate audit found that the Public Service Commission, which is subject to purchasing regulations, has an inventory of 85 firearms assigned to enforcement officers, but PSC officers working on the West Virginia Turnpike also are assigned

two shotguns owned by the state Parkways Authority and not accounted for on the inventory list.

In fact, the wvOasis inventory lists no firearms owned by the Parkways Authority, which also has its own State Police detachment. Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred told members of the legislative Post-Audits Committee on Tuesday he is uncertain whether that detachment’s weapons are property of the authority, but would check into it.

Similarly, an ongoing legislative audit of Marshall University found 43 firearms assigned to campus police that are not on the inventory list — not surprising, since the audit found that wvOasis lists no firearms owned by any state college or university.

Overall, the audit suggests that there are an “unquantified number of firearms” in the possession of various state agencies that are not on the wvOasis inventory list.

The audit concludes that all state agencies should be required to inventory their firearms, and suggests adopting federal standards used by the U.S. military and federal law enforcement agencies.

It also notes that the benefits of having all state-owned firearms inventoried outweigh any inconvenience the process would impose on purchasing-exempt agencies.

“Requiring all state agencies to account for, and properly inventory their firearms helps reduce potential for loss, misuse or theft,” the audit states.

“The additional liability to the state and the citizens of West Virginia potentially caused by an unaccounted for firearm is far too great to not follow the established best practice,” it concludes.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.