UPDATE: Lawmakers Unlikely to Compromise with Charleston on Gun Bill

By: WSAZ News Email
By: WSAZ News Email

UPDATE 3/4/14 @ 6:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A controversial gun bill in West Virginia is making its way through the Capitol.

The city of Charleston is up in arms about it -- saying it puts children's safety at risk. The part of the bill that City Council, as well as many parents are upset about, is that it would allow guns in recreation centers.

The city is trying to compromise with the Legislature, but lawmakers are likely to say 'no deal.'

At the age of 70, John White is still a regular at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

“I've been coming here since I was a little boy,” White said.

He had a strong reaction when hearing that it, along with the city's three other rec centers, could soon allow guns inside.

“That's ridiculous,” White said. “No, keep guns out of everything.”

Julie McKeever and her three children describe the Center as a second home.

“Guns are OK to an extent, as long as they're kept safe and are used properly,” McKeever said.

But even she says they don't belong here.

“We come here to enjoy ourselves,” McKeever said. “There should be no fear of us having to protect ourselves while we're having fun.”

“We just do not need guns around kids,” City Park and Rec Director John Charnock said.

With Head Start and other programs, at least 40 to 50 kids come through each center every day.

“An after-school program might sit there and try to find another site because they don't want guns in the centers,” Charnock said.

"We hope that somebody will stand up and somebody will say 'look, enough is enough,’” Mayor Danny Jones said.

Jones said the gun bill takes aim at Charleston. So he's playing ball with lawmakers -- asking them to drop the bill in exchange for the city dropping its ordinance.

On the books for more than 20 years, it requires a three-day waiting period to buy a handgun in city limits and allows only one gun purchase per month.

“This bill is gonna pass in some form that would nullify or invalidate that ordinance,” Senate Judiciary Chair Corey Palumbo said.

It puts the city in a lose-lose situation unless the city finds another way to fire back.

The bill has passed through the Senate and is now in the hands of delegates.

Palumbo says it's highly likely the bill will go through, and there's very little chance that the part about guns in rec centers will be taken out.

He does however say guns will have to be kept in secure lockers -- meaning you can't just walk around a rec center with a gun on you.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/3/14 @ 10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones wants to strike a bargain with the state legislature on a controversial gun bill.

Jones says senate bill 317, an amendment to last year's home rule bill, is directed against Charleston.

In exchange for lawmakers dropping the new bill, Jones says Charleston would immediately take its ordinance off the books.

The city's ordinance was put in place back in 1993, and requires a three day waiting period to buy a gun in city limits and allows only one handgun purchase per month.

Jones says he's against the legislature's bill because it would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into recreation centers.

"The NRA has gotten their hands on it and it's got a lot of stuff in it. But that's the big one, because in the bill it defines a rec center and talks about where children play after school. Just a couple of paragraphs down it said we'd have to let guns in there," Jones said.

The majority of council members say they're on board with the plan.

"If we can't maintain public safety in our recreation centers, it may just jeopardize our Head Start Program It may jeopardize our after-school programs. These are services provided to the children in the community who perhaps need them more than any others," Council president Tom Lane said.

No word yet if lawmakers are willing to take Jones' deal. Senate bill 317 is pending in the house judiciary committee.

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