The 2nd Amendment theme that has surfaced this legislative session continued Monday with the overwhelming passage in the House of Delegates of a bill that does away with gun regulations in the state’s cities and towns.
The bill, approved 94-4, would make null and void ordinances in Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar that restrict the sale or possession of firearms or ammunition.
Charleston’s ordinance requires a 72-hour waiting period and allows only one gun purchase a month.
Del. Josh Nelson, R-Boone, says the ordinances don’t work.
“I want to bring to light that it only takes one gun to commit a crime,” Nelson told fellow House members. “The only person that these ordinances are hurting are law abiding citizens.”
Most of the Charleston delegation stood behind the city’s more restrictive ordinance.
“I think that your municipalities ought to be able to govern themselves the way they wish to,” Del. Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said. “But I don’t think it’s fair to impose that belief on the people in Charleston.”
Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar had been grandfathered in when the legislature passed a firearms related bill a few years ago.
Kanawha County Del. Mark Hunt says the attitudes of Charleston leaders toward the legislature haven’t helped.
“When the mayor and city council calls us idiots and says the things that we do is unwise and blames every problem that we have in the City of Charleston on the legislature—all that does is infuriate the rest of you to vote against Charleston,” Hunt said.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones responded to Hunt’s House floor comments in a prepared statement:
“Listening to the debate on the House floor today, I was taken aback by Delegate Mark Hunt and his remarks inferring that members of Charleston City Council and the Mayor called him an ‘idiot.’ I do not know if Delegate Hunt is an idiot. Perhaps Delegate Hunt can verify when I called him an idiot or when any member of Council called him an idiot. Therefore I will leave it up to Delegate Hunt to verify who has called him an idiot.
Hunt says the bill will also help Cabela’s. The outdoor chain opened a new store in Charleston last year but the restrictive ordinance has hurt gun sales.
“Cabela’s sells guns. That’s what they do. They can only sell one gun a month up there where they built,” Hunt said.
Del. Nelson says more restrictive ordinances really don’t cut down on city crime.
“Our constitutional rights as West Virginians and the citizens of the United States should not stop at the edge of any city,” Nelson said. “You can look to cities like Detroit that have the strictest gun laws in the United States and their crime rates are also the highest.”
Del. Meshea Poore, whose district is in the city limits of Charleston, voted against the bill and had a question for her fellow delegates.
“When you’re walking to these receptions that they throw for us and you have late hours here—how safe is it going to be?”
The bill would give cities with the more restrictive ordinances 90 days to repeal their regulations or they would become null and void.
The measure now goes to the state Senate for consideration.