CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During a virtual ceremony Friday, Gov. Jim Justice signed into law two bills that were sponsored by Mineral County Del. Gary Howell.

Howell, a Republican representing District 56, serves as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the West Virginia House of Delegates and sponsored House Bill 2499, which provides “property tax relief for firearms and ammunition manufacturers,” and also features an increased investment tax credit for applicable businesses, “as well as creating a tax credit for federal excise tax imposed on small arms and ammunition,” according to a press release.

It also removes the sales tax on “certain defined small arms and small arms ammunition,” per the release. The law will take effect in 90 days.

Justice, a Republican, said the newly-signed law will make West Virginia “a haven” for arms manufacturers.

“It’s a huge deal that will help our gun stores,” Justice said. “It will help our people and everything, in a state that really enjoys the recreation of shooting at ranges, and absolutely getting out and enjoying the great nature of this state and being in the field hunting.”

“In 90 days West Virginia will become the single best place for small arms and small arms ammunition manufacturers to locate,” Howell wrote on Facebook. “... I would welcome all small arms and ammunition manufacturers to move to Mineral County, West Virginia.”

House Bill 2793, which Justice also signed into law on Friday permits out-of-state residents to obtain concealed carry gun permits in West Virginia.

During Friday’s event, NRA state director Art Thomm commended Howell for his work on both bills.

“It’s a big day for Del. Howell. He’s going two-for-two today,” Thomm said, going on to explain that the permits for non-residents could benefit West Virginia financially. Utah, Thomm said as an example, generates $5.3 million a year in revenue from gun permits for out-of-state residents. “If we could just get 10% of that, that’s a lot of money.”

Howell said in a follow-up interview that the tax credits that will be established are intended to hopefully entice manufacturers to relocate to West Virginia from other states where operations are more expensive. As those businesses open in the state, he said, they’ll bring with them sorely-needed population growth and job opportunities, Howell said.

Using Northrop Grumman, which has facilities in Mineral County, as a hopeful example, Howell said it could also incentivize businesses that already have a presence in the state to expand their existing operations there.

“On paper, it looks like, OK, the state is not going to get any taxes, but we’re not getting any taxes now because they’re not here,” Howell said. “So we’re not giving anything up.”

Lindsay Renner-Wood is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News, covering West Virginia and more. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayRenWood, email or call 304-639-4403.

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