UPDATE: State Lawmakers Stall Gun Legislation After Receiving Threats

By: The Associated Press, Olivia Fecteau, Brooks Jarosz, Jennifer Rizzi, WSAZ News Staff Email
By: The Associated Press, Olivia Fecteau, Brooks Jarosz, Jennifer Rizzi, WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 3/27/13 @ 1:06 a.m..

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- State senators have stalled a controversial piece of gun legislation after they say proponents started threatening their safety.

The bill aimed to make regulations uniform throughout West Virginia and overrule city ordinances that restrict concealed carry and zoning permits for gun shops.

Senate President Jeffrey Kessler says supporters sent threats through email, warning senators they wouldn't make it home if the bill didn't pass.

"I will never reward that kind of behavior with legislative victory when you're resorting to that kind of terrorist, bullying behavior," he said. "It just will not be tolerated."

The bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate earlier this month despite heavy backlash from city officials.

"We were not happy...I think it was a frightening piece of legislation and I'm glad it's gone," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said.

Jones feels proponents of the bill had a bigger agenda than changing the way a few cities regulate guns.

"It's all about politics," he said. "It affects us when it comes to guns, but it's all about politics."

Terron Burks works in Charleston and calls himself an advocate of gun rights. He would have liked to see the bill pass, but says he's disappointed in how other supporters handled the process.

"I think the death threats are a little overboard," he said. "We have to be responsible about it. People who own guns have to be responsible individuals."

Lawmakers say proponents of the bill don't need to lobby at the state level to see change. They say the same result can be achieved by repealing ordinances at the local level.

UPDATE 3/26/13 @ 1:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia Senate President Jeffrey Kessler says a bill that would eliminate municipal gun restrictions in four cities is unlikely to proceed.

The bill passed the House with overwhelming support and recent rallies have urged its passage in the Senate.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Government Organization. Committee Chairman Herb Snyder said he has received threats related to the bill's passage.

Kessler said Tuesday that those threats were part of the reason for stalling the bill.

Kessler also says that the affected cities are resisting the bill. He says that if people want those city laws overturned, they should work at the local level to do that.

UPDATE 3/12/13 @ 7:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A debate is heating up over the right to regulate guns in West Virginia.

The City of Charleston is firing back about a bill aimed at unifying gun laws in the Mountain State.

House Bill 2760 passed the House and if off to the Senate. It says cities like Charleston do not have the right to regulate.

"This is frightening to municipalities," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said. "We believe that's our call."

Charleston currently has a handgun ordinance. It limits gun purchases to one per month, a criminal background check is required, metal disabilities are taken into account and there's a three-day waiting period after buying a gun before you can actually have it on you.

City officials tell WSAZ.com they've had support and success with the ordinance.

"Our murder rate in Charleston has dramatically reduced, and Charleston today is a far safer city then it was 20 years ago," City Councilman Tom Lane said.

However, that ordinance would disappear if the new bill becomes law. That would mean guns could be carried into City Hall or other city owned buildings.

"It just gives people a playing field that stays the same," Delegate Carol Miller said. "They know, wherever they are in the state, that the bill, the rules are the same."

Zoning ordinances would be voided, allowing gun shop owners to set up their business in neighborhoods. Also, the city could no longer buy back guns.

Most of all, the Mayor says the bill sets up the city to get sued -- allowing anyone to bring a lawsuit against the city for regulating or enforcing gun regulations. Even if that person doesn't live in Charleston, it could cost you money.

"This bill sets municipalities up for lawsuits; it is inviting them," Lane said. "It is inviting the plaintiffs lawyers to come in, sue the city and require us to pay all the expenses including their attorney fees so it's an incentive."

Charleston's gun ordinance only applies to handguns and pistols. That means, if you want to buy a rifle somewhere, nothing is stopping you.

City leaders say they are lobbying the Senate to try and get the bill voted down. Only four delegates voted against the House version of the bill. Those for it say it's about protecting people's right and also their safety.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 3/11/2013 @ 6:15 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- If you have a concealed carry permit for your gun in the state of West Virginia, you may soon be able to carry your gun anywhere in the Mountain State.

The House of Delegates voted Monday to create standardized gun laws at the state level, overriding local and city ordinances that prohibit guns in certain places.

Right now, openly carrying a gun or carrying a concealed gun is illegal on city-owned property -- such as municipal buildings and city parks -- in Charleston, Dunbar, South Charleston and Martinsburg.

But in buildings and on grounds not owned by the cities, it's legal to carry a gun. That means you could be breaking the law in one part of a city, but not another.

Back in 2011, WSAZ.com reported on the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun lobbying group which filed a federal lawsuit calling for uniform statewide gun laws. They called the inconsistent local laws an "enforcement mine field" and "a trap for law abiding citizens."

The bill passed through the House of Delegates Monday by a large margin, with only four delegates voting against it. If it becomes law, the state will have uniform laws for concealed and open carry, and local laws will be void.

This would also affect purchasing limits for handguns in the individual cities. In Charleston, for example, you can only buy one handgun during a 30-day period. After purchasing a gun, there is a 72-hour waiting period until the gun is physically available for possession.

Local delegates said the passage of this bill will protect the constitutional right to bear arms, without confusion because of different laws in different cities.

"It just gives people a playing field that stays the same," Delegate Carol Miller (Cabell County) said. "They know, wherever they are in the state, that the rules are the same."

Delegate Jim Butler, who represents Mason County and parts of Putnam County, said he thinks this bill will also protect people's safety and prevent tragedies like the ones in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

"Somebody who's going to do harm to someone, if they consider that the person they're going to attack may have a weapon of their own, it might deter them," Butler said.

If these changes take effect, concealed carry laws will only apply to people with valid, legally obtained concealed carry permits.

UPDATE 3/11/2013 @ 2:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The West Virginia Legislature is taking a major step toward abolishing a handful of local government firearm ordinances.

The House of Delegates voted 94-4 Monday on a measure that makes clear that all such laws must be enacted at the state level.

Supporters say the goal is a uniform set of regulations for the entire state. They also see the measure as affirming the 2nd Amendment.

Ordinances that would be struck down include several enacted by Charleston in the 1990s. These limit handgun purchases to one per month, and require the buyer to wait 72 hours before receiving the weapon

Charleston officials say their ordinances targeted people who buy multiple guns on behalf of somebody else.

The guns then command high prices in areas with strict gun laws.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The West Virginia Legislature has had partisan clashes this session, but one issue seems to be uniting Democrats and Republicans: gun rights.

Congress and some states are considering assault weapon bans and similar measures in response to recent mass shootings.

West Virginia lawmakers seek to allow firearms at the state Capitol, block enforcement of any new federal gun law and declare all future control measures invalid whether federal, state or local.

The House of Delegates appears particularly keen on this approach. Nearly half its 100 members co-sponsored a resolution calling for Congress to leave the 2nd Amendment alone. Delegates are expected to pass a bill Monday repealing local gun control ordinances.

These proposals arise in a state where gun ownership is common. But only a few are expected to pass.

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