Charleston WV mayor reacts to gun ordinance bill - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Charleston WV mayor reacts to gun ordinance bill

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Charleston Mayor Danny Jones isn't happy with a House of Delegates vote on a bill that would nullify a Charleston city ordinance.

On March 11, the House passed House Bill 2760, which would create uniformity in the state's gun laws. Currently, Charleston and a couple of small nearby cities have their own ordinances. Charleston's allows consumers to buy only one handgun per month after a 72-hour waiting period. The ordinance does not apply to other types of firearms.

Jones hosted a news conference the following day, saying the legislation is "frightening to municipalities" and the "Legislature is not familiar with our ordinance."

"If we can concede, just the initial, let's take away Charleston's gun ordinance; that's not all this does," Jones said at the news conference. "It does a lot of other things."

Jones said violence in Charleston was extremely high before the ordinance took effect about 20 years ago, and the murder and drug rates have decreased significantly. In 1999, Charleston's ordinance was grandfathered into legislation that prohibits municipalities from regulating the sale of firearms. At that time, Charleston had a lot of influence in the Legislature, but Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, said times have changed.

"I was here in 1999 when we pre-empted the field on gun carry," he said before the March 11 vote. "I look around and there's not many of us left. We filled the whole back row in 1999."

Hunt went on to point out that Legislative power shifts from district to district and that Charleston "is no longer the center of the legislative universe."

"That's OK," Hunt said. "It needs to rotate around. But when you look at the number of people in this House after redistricting that actually represent the people of Charleston, its only five or 6. You have 94 or more people who don't represent Charleston. Some people say they represent the whole state, but your district comes first. There's no doubt about that and nothing wrong with that."

In his speech, Hunt accused Jones and an unnamed member of Charleston City Council of calling the Legislature a group of idiots. Jones denies that, but Hunt said all those actions do is infuriate members of the House and cause them to vote against the bill.

Hunt is one of five delegates representing Charleston and voted in favor of the bill. But Delegates Danny Wells, Meshea Poore and Nancy Guthrie, all Democrats, voted against the measure. Guthrie pointed out Charleston and other municipalities with their own ordinances hadn't abused the privilege, so why take it away?

"Normally we don't take up gun bills unless law enforcement has a reason to want something – we never got that," Guthrie said after the vote. "And I also know that the City of Charleston, Dunbar and St. Albans ... it looks to me like some of the municipalities, they haven't abused the privilege they've had."

But to delegates representing districts outside of Charleston, the bill had less to do with autonomy and more to do with fairness.

Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, said rural West Virginians often drive to Charleston to visit Gander Mountain or Cabela's, two large gun stores along Corridor G, to purchase guns.

"That's a long drive down Corridor G for a law abiding citizen who comes up here to spend money purchasing a gun and having to come back three days later," Marcum said. "Rural West Virginia has different dynamics."

HB 2760 passed 94-4 and will now go to the Senate Government Organization Committee. Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said he just received the bill and didn't know much about it.

"This is more gun bills than I've ever seen in the Legislature. Why? Because of the gun debate at the national level," Snyder said.

Snyder, a member of the National Rifle Association, said he wanted to ensure constituents their gun rights are "alive and well in West Virginia."

His committee plans to take up the bill soon.